World Entrepreneurship Summit and the ‘olderpreneur’

Last week, thanks to those kind people at Policy Unplugged, I got the opportunity to attend the grandly titled World Entrepreneurship Summit 2008 or WES08 for short.  It turned out …

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16th January 2008 at 10:05 pm

wes08 Last week, thanks to those kind people at Policy Unplugged, I got the opportunity to attend the grandly titled World Entrepreneurship Summit 2008 or WES08 for short.  It turned out to be a fascinating event very much focused on social and sustainable economic growth through entrepreneurship.

There were some memorable presentations, not least (so I’m told, having missed it!) Kevin Spacey’s (yes, American Beauty, The Usual Suspect etc) rapturously received talk on creative entrepreneurship at the Old Vic Theatre which is entirely self-funded.  His plea for all of us to remember to ‘send the elevator down’ to help people on the way up set the tone in many ways for the summit as a whole.

Although occasionally a little cerebral and academic, there was a lot of passion for the change for good entrepreneurship can bring.  As the impressive Julie Meyer, founder of First Tuesday and Ariadne Capital, said:

Entrepreneurship is going to be the guiding force of the 21st Century and entrepreneurs the change agents – artists armed with capital and the internet.

But it wasn’t all this lofty, ambitious or utopian.  There were plenty of practical sessions and insights from real entrepreneurs or organisations making a difference. 

One of the very poorly attended, but nonetheless interesting sessions was on what was dubbed ‘olderpreneurs’ and how entrepreneurship can meet the challenge of the ‘third age’.

Among the presenters was Laurie Smith, Executive Director of PRIME, one of the Prince of Wales’s organisations set up to support people over 50 looking to become self-employed.  (Incidentally when I reach 50 in only a decade, I’m going to be mightily pissed off if someone suggests I’ve reached my ‘third age’)

The work PRIME is doing is worthwhile, no doubt, but its premise seemed to be that there were millions of over 50s rejected from the workplace for whom self-employment was therefore a compelling option, and in some cases last chance to regain some self-respect.

I’m sure for some this is the case, so long as entrepreneurship isn’t seen as a social panacea.  Surely most important is to change society’s view of over 50s in the workplace in general.  And since this age group already numbers around 20 million in the UK (nearly half the adult population), the over 50s should increasingly be in a position to drive this change of attitude themselves.

The session went on to highlight the terrific work Andreas Jonas of a Berlin based training group was doing to encourage entrepreneurship among the older unemployed in East Germany.  A fascinating, cost-effective programme of focused support.

It was also a pleasure to meet the very engaging Nina Grunfeld of Life Clubs – the very young and only ‘olderpreneur’ in the audience.

So there we are.  A very brief sense of WES08.  But there’s just one thing that perplexed me throughout.  What on earth is ‘business 3.0’?  If you have an inkling, do let me know.

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Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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