August 21 marked World Entrepreneurs’ Day, a time for us to reflect on the obstacles leaders’ face and share the lessons learnt along the way. To champion entrepreneurship, here are the thoughts from five technology experts on their experience of entrepreneurship, what it takes to succeed and how to overcome obstacles
Dominic Allon, CEO at Pipedrive: “The positive impact that SMEs have on the UK economy cannot be overstated. They play a vital role in enhancing both the economic growth of the nation, making up 99% of all UK businesses. But just as SMEs’ impact cannot be overstated, nor can the challenges they are facing. From the rise of inflation, to reduced consumer spend due to the cost-of-living crisis, the entrepreneurs heading up UK enterprises have shown true tenacity, and resilience.
“Looking ahead to a positive, but economically uncertain future, entrepreneurs must align their go-to-market approach with an agile focus. In today’s world, leveraging digital tools isn’t a choice – it’s a strategic imperative. Leaders who can use and effectively implement digital tools support their teams, optimise workflows and better align with customers’ needs, will grow. Put simply, entrepreneurs must have the right tools at their disposal to seize opportunities and make informed decisions.
“So, as we celebrate the trailblazers who are turning dreams into reality, let’s salute their resilience, innovation and unwavering spirit. But most importantly, let’s remember that while the path to entrepreneurship is filled with challenges, the right digital tools can turn these challenges into easier triumphs. When people have a business idea, they must follow it up with a tech plan.”
Niccolo Perra, Co-Founder of Pleo: “For many, when they think about entrepreneurship they will automatically think of the product or the service. But what about the organisation itself? For me, this is something you need to nurture and invest in just as much, if not more. At Pleo, we have made a conscious effort to create a culture that learns together and embraces its mistakes – as this is vital for innovation. When employees feel safe to take risks, they are more likely to think creatively and propose new ideas.
“Recent economic headwinds have made for a challenging environment for entrepreneurs – both those upcoming and established. But no path to success is smooth all the time, and business leaders need to understand that their company’s journey is one that should go for the long haul. As we mark this year’s World Entrepreneurs’ Day, I encourage leaders to think more like the camel instead of the unicorn. In other words, by focusing on resilience and longevity instead of a rapid race to market – demonstrating the functionality and adaptability to absorb any industry shocks and keeping their culture intact along the way.”
Deann Evans, Managing Director, EMEA, at Shopify: “Being an entrepreneur takes grit and determination, particularly in the current economic climate. However, despite these challenges, entrepreneurship in the UK is in great shape. Our Entrepreneurship Index revealed that UK entrepreneurs in Shopify’s ecosystem generated £28.8 billion worth of business activity in 2022 alone, and contributed £14.3 billion in GDP impact.
“This World Entrepreneurs’ Day we should applaud entrepreneurs for their hard work, creativity and resilience. In the commerce space, we believe one model for entrepreneurs to continue to grow is to connect directly with their consumers. This involves using all possible pathways to reach their customers, both online and offline – from social and community commerce to web stores and the high street – to put trust at the heart of every interaction and create more meaningful relationships between themselves and their customers.”
Sacha Michaud, Co-Founder at Glovo: “Europe’s complexity with 27 EU member states poses both an opportunity and huge challenge for entrepreneurs to start successful businesses. Europe is struggling to support its entrepreneurs, and falls behind the innovation seen in the US and Asia. That gap will continue to widen without prompt action.
“But there is a wealth of untapped entrepreneurial potential that could compete with the rest of the world if we tackle this with a pan-European strategy. For that to happen, European startups and scaleups need the right framework and support from the continent’s wider ecosystem with a renewed focus on attracting capital, enticing and retaining the best talent, and facilitating harmonized regulatory frameworks that support startups, enabling them to have a meaningful impact and ensuring their sustained growth.
“At Glovo, entrepreneurship is at the heart of our core business. 90% of our global partners are SMEs, founded and driven by entrepreneurs. We have implemented a series of initiatives to support entrepreneurship, including the creation of Glovo House – a springboard to help accelerate the projects of current Glovo employees and alumni on their path to entrepreneurship. We also provide learning and development opportunities specifically designed to provide couriers and SMEs with the training they need to start their own businesses.
“Entrepreneurs in Europe have a unique learning opportunity. While there are challenges, these will create resilient global businesses that can rival those around the world and, at the same time, build these companies with a solid purpose that will leave nobody behind in this tech revolution.”
Chris Mills, Head of Customer Success, EMEA, at Slack: “If the last few years have taught leaders anything, it is that we live in an age of uncertainty. In this environment entrepreneurs need to be really thoughtful about how they are communicating and avoid creating information silos. By creating a transparent culture small businesses can create stronger and better performing teams.
“Our research shows transparent conversations between leaders and employees nurtures a trusting and healthy work culture. This also benefits a business’ bottom line, with employees in transparent environments being 1.8x more productive – amplified by the use of a productivity platform. This World Entrepreneurs’ Day, leaders everywhere should embrace an open culture of communication and collaboration as this may help unlock their next stage of growth.”
Olivier Pailhès, co-founder and CEO, Aircall: “Being an entrepreneur is an adventure. When you start out, you need the perfect storm of timing, market needs and innovation to occur in order to disrupt an established industry. From my experience, success then comes from a relentless obsession to reach your goal but knowing that it won’t happen overnight. This World Entrepreneurs’ Day, my advice is to not confuse your long-term ambitions with the small steps you need to take each day. You need to continuously listen to your customers, go with your intuition and make marginal gains in order to make the difference long-term.
“I also encourage entrepreneurs to focus on building cohesive teams. When I look back on our journey at Aircall, I recognise that it has been built by amazing people. Without my team, none of this would have been possible. Founders might do the heavy lifting early on but the ultimate success of an entrepreneur belongs to everyone building the company, block by block.”