Growing Interest in Growth Entrepreneurship

November 14, 2009

In early 2007 I was commissioned to write a discussion paper for SEEDA, a UK regional development agency, based on a review of the academic literature on the subject of Growth Entrepreneurship. I subsequently published the paper on Scribd last year (see panel) and to my surprise it has now been read by over 8,000 people and become a ‘Hot Favorite’!

At the same time, I started this learning blog not knowing what sort of interest there might be in my doctoral research into Growth Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Team Dynamics. And, to be fair, no real effort was made by me to actively promote the blog, collect followers or make the site SEO friendly. However, the response to my paper has now encouraged me to get serious with social media and become more active in sharing the results of my research along with my work as a high-growth business coach and mentor.

If you’re interested in aspects of high-growth entrepreneruship I will now be posting or a more regular basis and you can also  follow me on Twitter at


Branson talks about his Dyslexia

February 22, 2009

One of my earlier blogs (24 January 2008) introduced a new line of research into the links between entrepreneurship and dyslexia. In the following TV interview Richard Branson talks openly about his dyslexia, which he attributes in part to his success.

Studies carried out at CASS Business School indicate that dyslexics make up 19% or 600,000 of the 3.5 million population of entrepreneurs in the UK whereas in America 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. The fundermental difference between the two groups seems to be their level of self-confidence.

A ‘Conversation’ about Dyslexia & Entrepreneurship

February 15, 2009

Last week I was invited to Arizona by the Kauffman Foundation to attend a closed ‘conversation’  between a small group of thinkers and doers for the purpose of better understanding dyslexia and entrepreneurship, and the possible links between the two.  The group, consisting of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs, educators and leading scientific researchers, spent two and a half days exploring the possibility of introducing a new study to extend the initial findings of Professor Julie Logan in this area [1].

As a dyslexic entrepreneur and academic researcher myself, this is an area of research which is close to my heart and one which I will continue to follow closely in my blog.

[1] Logan, J. (2007) Failures in education system cause UK to produce less dyslexic entrepreneurs than the US. CASS 

The UK’s Hidden Innovators

May 25, 2008

New research conducted by Cass Business School’s Centre for New Technologies, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CENTIVE) sponsored by Microsoft, has revealed that a latent pool of hidden innovators could potentially add a staggering £15 Billion to the UK economy by 2012 if the right conditions were created according to the latest government figures.

The report, Unlocking the potential of UK’s Hidden Innovators, which combined in depth statistical research with qualitative case study analysis, was conducted over a six month period. It examined how we might unlock the barriers and pathways to entrepreneurial innovation in three important groups, recognised for their entrepreneurial potential:

  • “Olderpreneurs” (those aged over 50)
  • Black Minority and Ethnic (BME)
  • People with a disability (including dyslexia)

Older entrepreneurs, ‘olderpreneurs’ could contribute an increased 17% of the potential uplift to the UK economy by 2012 and will be key to capitalising on this innovation opportunity as the size of this group expands over the next four years. With a wealth of experience and insight built up over their careers, this group has the highest rate of business success and longevity, with over 70% of start-ups lasting more than three years, compared with 28% for younger entrepreneurs. Moreover, with those over 55 set to account for a third of the UK population by 2025, older entrepreneurs are well placed to tap into the fast-growing potential marketplace through their shared experiences and understanding, the report reveals.

One of the report’s key findings is that entrepreneurial self-confidence is a critical issue for all the hidden innovator groups and a major barrier in pursuing an entrepreneurial path. However, it also reveals that this self-confidence can be nurtured if there is a culture of entrepreneurship to support it.

New biological factors found to influence entrepreneurship

April 14, 2008

A new avenue of exploratory research has set out to understand more fully the long running nature versus nurture debate on whether entrepreneurs are born or can be taught the appropriate skills. The high growth in entrepreneurship education over recent years in schools, further education colleges and universities would suggest the latter. However, a UK exploratory study [1], which compared the self-employment activity of 609 pairs of identical twins and 657 pairs of same sex non-identical twins, found that identical twins had a much higher incidence of self-employment activity. This seems to suggest a genetic link to entrepreneurial orientation, although the specific genes have yet to be identified.

A second exploratory study on the same theme based on evolutionary biology [2] found the level of testosterone in individuals with entrepreneurial experience to be measurably higher than those with no entrepreneurial experience, suggesting a possible link between testosterone and venture success.

Should this line of exploratory research prove fruitful, what might be the potential implications for private or institutional investors wanting to incorporate tests of this nature within their investment due diligence process? Would it be socially acceptable to deny someone access to financial resources based upon biological factors that they can’t control?

[1] Niclaou, N. et al., (2006). Is the tendancy to engage in self-employment genetic?
[2] White, R. E., et al. (2006). Entrepreneurs and Evolutionary Biology: the relationship between testosterone and new venture creation. Organisation Behaviour and Human Decision Processes

High-Growth Entrepreneurship

March 15, 2008

Europe remains challenged to develop its high-growth entrepreneurs. According to the recent GEM Global report on High Growth Entrepreneurship, Europe in the main lags behind North America, Oceania, and China in terms of high-expectation entrepreneurship (defined as the prevalence of nascent and new entrepreneurs who expect to create 20 or more jobs in 5 years’ time). Broadly speaking, high-growth entrepreneurs are only half as numerous in Europe as they are in the US and in China.

Subsequently a select group of leaders in European academia, industry and policy met to discuss the fundamental problem: How to encourage more high-growth entrepreneurs in Europe? These are men and women driven, not merely to seek self-employment, but to create world-class companies in technology, biopharma and other R&D intensive fields. Read more in the report on this roundtable discussion, which outlines the dilemma facing policy-makers.

Entrepreneurship and the gift of Dyslexia

January 24, 2008

Professor Julie Logan from the CASS Business School has completed a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States (The New York Times 06 Dec 07) which suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought, with 35% of entrepreneurs surveyed identifying themselves as dyslexic. These finding support an earlier study carried out in the U.K. by Logan [1] which found that the incidence of dyslexia in entrepreneurs was five times higher than that in the corporate manager population. This is due in part to dyslexics higher degree of creativity, increased need for achievement and enhanced communication skills.

The full extent of dyslexia among the general population is still being discovered, but it is reported to be between 4-10%, depending on its severity [2]. Public opinion of this condition, which is classified as a ‘learning disability’, may well need to be reassessed as a ‘gift’ to nascent entrepreneurs that potential investors should become more aware of. Famous entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Richard Branson (Virgin), Alan Sugar (Amstrad), John Cambers (Cisco) and the late Anita Roddick (Body Shop) are all reported to be dyslexic.

As a dyslexic entrepreneur myself I’m pleased to see that some of the more positive aspects of dyslexia are now being studied by academics and covered in leading international business journals such as BusinessWeek (12 Dec 07, Why Dyslexics make Great Entrepreneurs).  Hopefully this will encourage many more successful ‘closet dyslexics’ in the business community to openly admit their situation, and become positive role models for young dyslexics who might be struggling to decide on the future direction of their careers?

[1] Logan, J. (2002). The incidence of dyslexia in business managers and its relationship with entrepreneurial success. The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development Conference. Nottingham
[2] Harris, A. and Ross, C. (2005). Dyslexia in the workplace. Occupational Health, 57, (3) pp25-32