Start-Ups

Six tips from a Dragon: James Caan shares his business advice

<em>Dragons' Den</em> entrepreneur shares his insights on where technology is taking business...

James Caan talks to silicon.com about tech in business

James Caan says the climate for UK entrepreneurs today is positive, despite the state of the economyPhoto: Hamilton Bradshaw

James Caan may be best known for his work on BBC show Dragons' Den, but away from the camera the entrepreneur continues to search out new business talent in his role as founder and CEO of private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw.

After leaving school at 16 with no qualifications, Caan built up his career starting in the recruitment industry and now works with business secretary Vince Cable as a member of the Entrepreneurs' Forum, advising the government on new business policies.

No slouch when it comes to new technology - he has just launched his own business-mentoring app for the iPhone and iPad, Business Secrets - Caan spoke to silicon.com about the challenges and opportunities presented to small businesses in today's economic climate and the role technology can play in enterprise success.

1. Ignore the doom and gloom

Despite the challenging economic times, Caan believes would-be entrepreneurs should not be put off starting their own business.

The introduction of the internet and the different types of support, services and entrepreneurial communities that come with it, as well as the opportunities presented by Silicon Valley and venture capital networks in the UK, are providing useful support to budding entrepreneurs, according to Caan.

"When I started in business there was virtually no support. I think of the general climate today for entrepreneurs thinking of starting businesses and there is substantially more available today than there has been in the past," he said.

2. Government must foster innovation

While the government has tried to stimulate tech hubs such as the East London Tech City - launched by Prime Minister David Cameron last year - Caan cautioned there is only so much the government can do.

"The government has never claimed to be experts on business. Their job and their role is to facilitate and encourage innovation," he said.

However, the former Dragon also believes any initiatives made by the government to support business should be applauded.

"My view is that anything the government can do that shows support, commitment and resource, I think should be recognised and appreciated because it's more than we've had before," Caan said.

"I think there are numerous initiatives the government has introduced and launched which basically make the entrepreneur in innovation and technology recognise that he is important."

3. Lack of investor confidence prevents UK's own Silicon Valley

Despite the best efforts of the government, the UK has never managed to establish a British equivalent to Silicon Valley, and the entrepreneur said this is partly due to...

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