Friday, July 20, 2012

The Future of Entrepreneurship

As I sit around a table discussing entrepreneurship at the OECD I find myself surrounded by a good mix of dreamers and realists. We're talking about the future of entrepreneurship and I'm happy to hear that most people would like to see 'social business' at the heart of it. Are we really dreamers though? What is the reality exactly? And what's more, what's the reality of social business?

Filipe Santos, Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD France, works ardently to convince us there is indeed a difference between social businesses and businesses with a social edge and that on trying to forge the two the cracks will start to appear.
- At a certain point you will have to make a decision which determines your role.  Will you choose profit over the distribution of social goods for example. What are you willing to share? - That's what seems to make the difference between a social entrepreneur and an entrepreneur.

We try to cite examples to make life clearer and to give us some hope for a social business future. These include Wikipedia, the open-source encyclopedia, and of course Danone, who worked with Muhammed Yunus to create Grameen Danone Foods. "But are they really a social business?" One person cries. "Does it matter if they're doing something positive." Adds another. "Yeh, but they have the means to do this kind of things, it's not so easy for small companies or start-ups with no where near the same amount of capital". Another quiet but sensible voice asserts.

So what will the future of entrepreneurship be? Is there in fact a paradigm shift, as perhaps exemplified by Danone, or is that a false exterior? Will it in fact be so hard for companies with less capital it won't be a reality? What about the role of the crisis? Only time will tell, but at least around the table there were those who wanted it to happen and perhaps that's half the battle.

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