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Traditional stereotypes of entrepreneurs out of date and preventing more problem solving

Outdated and negative stereotypes of entrepreneurs could be preventing people from recognising entrepreneurial qualities in themselves at a time when these skills are needed most, suggests new research from King’s Entrepreneurship Institute in collaboration with YouGov.

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However, whilst these stereotypes seem to exist, the results also show that 69% of British adults think entrepreneurs are important to helping economies grow and 63% believe they are important to the recovery from recessions. With a massive 86% of people describing themselves as either slightly or not at all entrepreneurial, the King’s Entrepreneurship Institute is working to bust traditional stereotypes and myths to enable people to realise their entrepreneurial skills and be encouraged to join the ecosystem of individuals solving some of the world’s challenges.

These results show that whilst people are generally positive about entrepreneurs, some of those negative and traditional stereotypes, such as being money-motivated, self-interested, and egotistical, still exist. Given the pandemic's tumultuous impact on young people's futures and job prospects and the economic challenges faced by people across the country, it's more important than ever that negative stereotypes of entrepreneurs do not discourage the development and pursuit of entrepreneurial qualities such as the ability to innovate, collaborate, be resilient and get stuff done– Julie Devonshire OBE, Director, Entrepreneurship Institute

Delving in further, the findings showed that:

  • 50% of respondents perceive money as being one of the biggest motivators for entrepreneurs
  • 44% viewed entrepreneurs as important to responding to crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 27% see entrepreneurs as problem solvers
  • 45% of respondents believed entrepreneurs were more likely to be male
  • 48% of people believed that entrepreneurs are more likely to be from a middle-class background and 41% believe it is easier to be an entrepreneur if you are white
  • 9% of respondents described themselves as entrepreneurial, although this figure rose to 15% amongst 18-24 year olds
  • 20% believed that entrepreneurs are self-interested, 15% believed them to be ruthless and 13% as egocentric

Julie said: “Entrepreneurship has changed and the much-needed next generation are different – in a recent survey of our start-ups over the last five years at King’s, 82% said that their biggest motivators were solving problems, driving change or finding more effective solutions. Whilst there is plenty more work to do regarding diversity, 39% of our start-ups are women-led and 40% are BAME.

“We need to change the perception of entrepreneurship to reflect what is really going on amongst contemporary entrepreneurs so that they are encouraged to recognise their entrepreneurial qualities and act on them. Entrepreneurial stereotypes are blocking a diverse group of talented people from realising their potential and are delaying the next generation of entrepreneurs from stepping up to the plate, when we need them most.

Today also marks the fifth cohort of entrepreneurs joining the King’s Accelerator Programme, which invests in the brightest and highest potential ventures to help them to reach their potential. The programme has now reached 100 ventures solving 100 key problems. These ventures have generated almost £17million in revenue and raised over £20million in investment, creating over 400 jobs for the UK economy. The most successful ventures include:

Hackajob - Hackajob believes that the best way to find the right person for the job is to actually see if they can do the job through a platform that allows candidates to show off their skills through coding challenges.

German Kraft Beer - By producing beer on site, German Kraft is able to cut most of the CO2 emissions that are produced from packaging and transportation. By only serving tank to glass, customers are able to enjoy beer at its freshest.

Panakeia - Panakeia’s AI-based platform eliminates the need for multiple lab tests, allowing patients to receive fast, precision diagnosis, at a fraction of the current cost.

OBRIZUM® - A cloud-based adaptive learning platform powered by deep proprietary artificial intelligence technology that allows organisations in high-skill areas to automatically create, deliver and monitor adaptive online learning and development programmes on a global scale.

Sojo - An easy and hassle-free way to get clothes altered and repaired by connecting users with local seamster businesses with just a few simple clicks.

Virtuoso - Where medical students can learn how to practice medicine, with interactive videos, clinical scenarios and chatbots.

“The ventures that the Entrepreneurship Institute supports through its accelerator programme are businesses that have come up with novel solutions to everyday problems that will benefit society. Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs to flourish has never been more important. Anyone can become more entrepreneurial, nobody should feel they are locked out because they are not like the ‘old guard’, and there is support out there to do so from universities and others”, Julie Devonshire added.

For more information about the ventures go to https://www.kings20.com/

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,781 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th - 16th October 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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Julie Devonshire

Julie Devonshire

Director, Entrepreneurship Institute