Funding feedback and growing an entrepenurial spirit

Scotland, I love you.

I want to stay and make Scotland a place I want to live and work in, and others do too.  It needs new perspectives, fresh thinking, aspirational people with ambition.  This cultural diaspora I’m talking about will need nurturing.  Scotland has a long (and proven) history in recent times in lacking confidence. 

I’ve debated on whether to write this or not and publish it, but I think it’s important this debate is out there and we discuss how our government funded agencies really can support business start ups.

There’s alot to write on this subject and I will continue to do so as someone who fits both within (just) the younger entrepreneur category and as a mentor to other start ups in Scotland and in general a go to person for advice on where to start with the dizzying number of business support and development services out there.

This post refers to a recent unfortunate piece of news I received around a venture idea Snook submitted that has had fair traction around the world in the past 6 months.  Sadly we were not accepted to go forward, but don’t misunderstand this as a bitter post, we half expected this, it’s ok, we’ll seek investment elsewhere.

The Edge fund was set up to enhance growth potential.  With two existing ‘customers’ of our product and needing investment to take our product to the next stage we’re seeking to do that from within Scotland.  Since this news, I guess we’re now looking out the way to other places this can be done.

Scottish Enterprise say in their 2013-2016 business plan:

“As part of our more focused approach to supporting growth companies, we need to address the challenges of building Scotland’s enterprise culture. Working with the Scottish government and alongside our partners in local authorities, Business gateway and in our universities and colleges, we will seek to create an environment which nurtures and supports the development of entrepreneurs. This applies both to supporting individuals and business start-ups to grow, as well as to improving entrepreneurial thinking and ambition within existing companies.”

Failure, in this case, not being taken forward to the next round is ok.  I have always been an advocate of learning by doing, but what’s important is a dialogue post the experience, taking a reflective practitioner approach, in this situation, we call it feedback.

The bad news email opened with:

As per the Competition’s published application materials, applicants from previous Rounds told us that the limited feedback available was not of value, with the preference being for a simple yes/no response.  We are therefore unable to provide individual feedback to applicants; however there were a range of common factors which unsuccessful applicants may wish to consider for future entries.  These can be found in the FAQs section via the following link – Scottish EDGE FAQs | Scottish Enterprise

This is not good enough.  If you want to build an aspirational culture of budding entrepreneurs, help them understand how and where they can improve.  This was my response by email, I will await and post the follow up here in the 5 days it takes to get feedback.

“I’d just like to say, as an aspiring entrepreneur in Scotland I am deeply saddened by your inability to provide people like myself, and other unsuccessful applicants personalised feedback.

It does not support growth, progress or improvement in Scotland, particularly amongst younger generations who are striving to create innovation, jobs and make Scotland a place that people want to live and work in, not escape as soon as they finish with the education system.
Very disappointed as Scottish Enterprise should represent progress within the business sector and support all of us who take the time to apply to grow as individuals and business.
Yours sincerely,
Sarah Drummond”
As a final sign off on this post, again this is not in a bitter response to not being selected, that’s ok, I can take that but what I want to know is how to grow.  If you want growth, let us focus on, as per the SE business plan, supporting and nurturing our talent not pushing it overseas.
Update April 15th: Response from Scottish Enterprise

Dear Sarah

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

The collective partners in the Scottish EDGE (Scottish Government, Royal Bank of Scotland, Entrepreneurial Spark, Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise) are all keen to support the growth of business in Scotland.

SE administer the competition on behalf of these partners and, like you, believed that there was value in applicants receiving feedback.  With over 700 applications having being received during the first 3 rounds of the competition the time and resource applied to this has been significant and we had hoped worthwhile, but applicants have consistently responded to us that the feedback is of minimal value and that they would prefer a simple yes/no response.

A learning review is held after each round of the competition and with this message recurring each time the decision was taken to remove feedback going forward in response to the views of those applicants.  Recognising that this may be off-putting to some applicants we published this information at the outset so that applicants could decide whether or not they felt it was worthwhile applying, knowing that they would simply receive a yes/no.

We do, however, understand that trying a new approach may lead to different views coming forward and we will continue to monitor those responses and, if appropriate, amend the approach taken for future rounds.  I am sorry that this is not of direct assistance in relation to your application for this round of the competition.

 Separately, all applicants to the Scottish EDGE can speak to their business advisor (SE/HIE or Business Gateway) if they already have one and ask them to offer comments (these organisations all participate in assessment of applications).  For applicants who are not currently engaged with one of these organisations, an advisor from Business Gateway will contact them over the weeks ahead and, again, can offer feedback.

I hope that this offers some reassurance and would like to thank you once again for taking the time to provide this feedback.

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