Travel startups should stand on their own two feet, not seek state help

The annual CES extravaganza in Las Vegas has hit the headlines for reasons other than the usual dizzying array of gadgets and other digital toys.

In the midst of all the gushing over self-drive cars and Internet Of Things-led services for the home and offices, is an arguably more fundamental problem around the business of it all.

The event’s organiser and president of the Consumer Technology Association, Gary Shapiro, says the British government has shown a lack of support for startups attending the tech get-together.

Many new businesses, including travel startups, go to the Nevada playground to show off their hardware or web service, in a bid to attract the attention of financial backers or retailers, as well as journalists.

Shapiro says many countries are sending more delegates each year under official designations, as well as official state-backed startup organisations setting up shop at the event for the week and hosting networking functions.

This, according to Shapiro, “is a source of embarrassment”.

The comments inevitably triggered much hand-wringing from UK-based startups such as AdYouLike that have bemoaned how the state supports startups initiatives such as the famed “Silicon Roundabout” area in London but have done little to back newbies in other areas.

Others are more direct privately, saying that the UK government’s apparent lack of interest in CES (a minister will attend for a few hours on one day) is perhaps indicative of a wider attitude to supporting startups.

In contrast, Momondo Group CEO Hugo Burge says specifically about CES that he finds it “bizarre that my fellow entrepreneurs are bemoaning a lack of government support for UK startups at CES, given that in my experience such events don’t see a lot of actual business done”.

Such events “shouldn’t be a priority for policy-makers”, he adds.

Burge argues that government officials should focus their efforts on creating an environment to give founders of startups the “best possible chance to set-up and grow their business”.

He adds:

“This is especially material given the post-Brexit, post-US election changes to the business landscape that we can assume are coming.

“Measures which contribute towards this, such as lower tax rates or making sure the next generation of workers is properly skilled and that talent can be easily accessed, are incomparably more valuable.”

Interestingly, Burge goes further, claiming that entrepreneurship is “defined by a willingness to stand on one’s own two feet”, rather than an expectation or desire to get backing from the state.

“In my 20 years, I haven’t expected, nor sought out, government support in building the technology businesses I’ve been involved in.

“Entrepreneurship is about doing things your own way, being proactive, rolling up your sleeves and executing like hell based on a measured judgement of the risks involved.”