The idea for StartUp Britain came about when a group of eight of us (myself, Oli Barrett, Emma Jones, Duncan Cheatle, Michael Hayman, Lara Morgan, Jamie Murray Wells and Richard O’Connor) got together to discuss what we could do to stimulate entrepreneurship in the UK. We were very much inspired by the work in America by the Startup America initiative launched by President Obama in January. A meeting with Lord Young led to him introducing us to some colleagues at Number 10, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The launch day, Monday, started early. My alarm went off at 3.45 and a taxi from the Beeb picked me up at 4.30 so I could appear on Radio Five for the Wake up Money slot. After that it was straight to Microsoft’s offices to help with the set-up ahead of the launch at lunchtime. Then it was a case of welcoming the VIPs: myself and Jamie were looking after Vince Cable and Peter Jones, showing them around and that kind of thing. We’ve been spending quite a lot of time at Number 10 and with various politicians, which made a bit of a change for me – it’s not the crowd I usually hang out with. Because we are trying to create a culture shift, it’s important that we show that we have the support of government – but that we’re not run by it.
Later on I had to do a panel discussion on future stars, with two other young entrepreneurs talking about our enterprise journeys. After that it was more interviews with the BBC and other news networks. All in all, it was a pretty crazy day. When I did eventually get to bed on Monday, it was just the best feeling.
The next day our inboxes were all full of hundreds of emails about the launch. There was such a strong reaction to what we are trying to do, it’s inevitable that not everyone was happy and there were certain issues we had to deal with quite quickly. The thing is we rely on communication from the start-up community, and they need to remember this is all a work in progress.
On Tuesday we also had a debrief with the team on next steps, before I went off to relay what we’ve done so far to a focus group, which consisted of a consortium of organisations like Shell Livewire. We’ve also had more than 500 emails from people who want to get involved – as partners, sponsors, that kind of thing – so it’s been a case of managing and dealing with the correspondence.
I’m going to try to relax and unwind a little this weekend, but it’s unlikely to happen. I have always worked non-stop at weekends even before StartUp Britain, and now my workload has increased ten-fold. I’ve actually got a friend’s birthday party on Saturday night but chances are I’ll be glued to my BlackBerry. My friends shouldn’t mind too much – they’re used to it by now.
Rajeeb Dey is founder and CEO of enternships.com and co-founder of StartUp Britain.