You just can't legislate for the will to win

ONE OF the received wisdoms about British business is that it lacks the entrepreneurial spirit of the United States. Or rather, that the UK has potential entrepreneurs aplenty but that they lack the encouragement needed to succeed.

This apparent contrast is most obviously illustrated by Silicon Valley, the area close to San Francisco that seems to have spawned just about every US hi-tech company you can think of, except Seattle-based Microsoft. The combination of Stanford University, a foremost engineering centre, and pioneers such as Hewlett-Packard has helped create what must be the most powerful business "cluster" in history.

Envious glances are being cast towards California from Britain. How can they have created this behemoth while we have so little to show for our talent in software development, not to mention more traditional creative industries such as music and fashion?

Nobody could accuse the US - home of free-wheeling business - of being interventionist on behalf of business, though it has not been averse to a bit of protectionism over the years. But there is in that vast and still hugely wealthy country an atmosphere that seems more conducive to business than that in Britain.

Bodies representing small firms tend to make much of the fact that, while we in Britain (particularly the press) tend to regard bankruptcy as failure, in the US it is seen as "a rite of passage". Hence, the emergence of suggestions that the Department of Trade and Industry might be looking at relaxing some of the rules concerning the disqualification of directors.

But it goes beyond that. There seems to be in the US less of the anti- business prejudice still rife in Britain. Silicon Valley is an extreme example that might have a lot to do with talented people being drawn to an attractive place to live, with the result that, as they say, success breeds success. But there are many other entrepreneurial strongholds dotted about the US.

Austin, Texas, another town strong on universities with an engineering bent, has "Silicon Hills", home of Dell Computers; the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina has attracted a large number of pharmaceuticals and science-based companies, including Glaxo Wellcome, to its research park.

In some cases, notably Raleigh-Durham, such developments are encouraged by the local civic leaders. But, by and large, they are the result of people having an idea and going with it. The clustering occurs as a result of the spin-offs or niches created by the original success.

Of course, it helps that the US is so large and, therefore, provides the opportunity for many mini-economies. But Britain does not fare as badly in these areas as people think - the science park originally based on the special expertise of academics at Cambridge University has been hugely successful, and similar clusters have developed around Oxford and Bristol.

Where this country does go wrong is in thinking that such things can be legislated for. A dozen high-achieving entrepreneurs reveal in Jeff Grout's and Lynne Curry's The Adventure Capitalists (Kogan Page, pounds 16.99) how they succeeded largely by acting on impulse.

With Gordon Brown's next Budget still months away, lobbying has already begun. And in the vanguard of petitioners are representatives of the venture capital industry who want the Government to "build upon" the achievements of last year's Budget, which included reductions in capital gains tax and widening of the scope of the Enterprise Investment Scheme.

But in always wanting more in the way of assistance, small businesses and their lobbying groups tend to give the lie to their supposed espousal of the free market. What the US - and the thoughts of Anita Roddick, David Lloyd, Sir Terence Conran and others collected in The Adventure Capitalists - have to teach us is that in business, as in many other things, where there's a will there's a way.

Mr Grout and Ms Curry's book has itself a good chance of success because it has the magic word "secrets" in its subtitle. But inside it reveals the importance of determination.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project