It's no secret that when originally launched, I too looked at the site and thought "just another link farm". However, I decided to take some time and speak to a few other entrepeneurs and business owners to gauge their thoughts and discuss my reservations on the initiative.
On reflection, I'm quite happy to admit I might have been a bit hasty with my initial opinion. Yes, I was wrong.
I started Hippo in February 2010 and was fortunate to obtain some sound advice from a few good friends and contacts who'd done this before. I was also lucky enough that, having been through this process years earlier with previous business ventures, I was armed with a mental list of do's and dont's this time around.
The Startup Britain campaign is, in principle, something that the UK economy desperately needs. It gives those individuals inclined, the necessary boost into generating revenue, boosting employment and by-proxy providing the government with increased tax revenues to rescue us from this current economic climate.
However - has the initial launch missed the mark? Quite possibly. Are the founder to blame? Quite possibly. Should we hang them out to dry on it? Absolutely not.
We need to step up to the mark and embrace what can and must be a ground breaking initiative to boost economy in the UK.
Sure, mistakes have been made. However, instead of trying to pin the 'blame' on a particular person or body - how about we actually do something to take part?
I have my own views on what StartUp Britain should be and how it can work. Building the initiative to become a valuable resource for all business startups - But thats just me, in the grand scheme of things I'm a relative nobody - one of the hundreds of thousands of business owners in the UK who work hard, employ staff and pay taxes. That said, I'm prepared to take a stand. I'm prepared to offer new startup websites for minimal cost to me. Just take a look at our porfolio and you'll see multi-nationals and global yachting events next to local B&B's and Residential Care Homes - why? Because it's good business practice, thats why. A client who comes to us for a website or design work in year 1 of their business and gets a good service, will likely come back over and over again and as long as it's made clear in writing at the beginning they are getting subsidised rates based on their new business status, there should be no arguments 6-12 months down the road when they need further work.
To the debate regarding the 99Designs issue. Its true, the argument of No-Spec has raged in the design industry for as long as I can remember. There will be points on both sides of the table - however, right or wrong, the powers that be have bowed to peer pressure and changed the link. How many of those who were actively voicing their concern thought to ask "Can I offer that service instead and get my logo on there"?
This initiative is all about building businesses in the UK - no matter what the business is. It might be a cake making business or an arts and crafts business. Similarly, it could have been me 10 years ago when I started my first business and had to make all the mistakes and receive all the fines - before I learned how to do things properly.
Specialist trades need to explain to new startups the value of what they are offering and why they are more expensive than a competitor. However, we have to be realistic. If a startup only has $250 to spend on their logo, you're not going to get them to spend $2500. Instead, give them the courtesy to explain why you're charging those costs, what they are getting for their money, the experience that you can offer over a 'buy-off-the-shelf' service. There's no point being elitist about it - they are where you were only a few short years ago. When I started Hippo, I looked at office space to rent and found it cost prohibitive - so opted for a managed service suite office to save on costs. Am I devaluing or doing someone a disservice for choosing this? Of course not.
It's undeniable that the StartUp Britain website needs some work. Of course it does, the site is nothing more than a glorified 'holding page'. To those of us in the industry, it might be a slap in the face - but we have to remember that the initiative is trying to appeal to the masses and as such needs to cover all its bases.
Having this resource of links/articles collated by people who have done this before has to be a start. The UK Industry needs this boost to kick start the new economic boom and I think that Start Up Britain can do this - it just needs work to get it there and thats where UK-Businesses need to stop complaining and embrace it.
Mistakes are going to be made. We're only human. With the amount of publicity its currently getting, it's also going to be a big target. Does that make it a bad idea?