Stereotypes of entrepreneurs ‘preventing problem-solving’

OUTDATED and negative stereotypes could be preventing people from recognising entrepreneurial qualities in themselves at a time when these skills are needed most, a study has found.

Research from King’s Entrepreneurship Institute, in collaboration with YouGov, showed that 69 percent of British adults think entrepreneurs are important to helping economies to grow, and 63 percent believe they are important to the recovery from recessions.

With 86 percent of people describing themselves as either “slightly” or “not at all” entrepreneurial, the institute is working to break down stereotypes and myths to encourage people to join the individuals solving the world’s challenges.

Institute director Julie Devonshire said: “These results show that whilst people are generally positive about entrepreneurs, some of those negative and traditional stereotypes, such as being money-motivated, self-interested, and egotistical, still exist.

“Given the pandemic’s impact on people’s futures and job prospects, and the economic challenges faced across the country, it’s more important than ever that negative stereotypes of entrepreneurs do not discourage the development and pursuit of entrepreneurial qualities.”

Delving in further, the findings showed that:

  • 50 percent of respondents perceive money as being one of the biggest motivators for entrepreneurs
  • 44 percent viewed entrepreneurs as important to responding to crises
  • 27 percent see entrepreneurs as problem-solvers
  • 45 percent of respondents believed entrepreneurs were more likely to be male
  • 48 percent of people believed that entrepreneurs are more likely to be from a middle-class background, and 41 percent believe it is easier to be an entrepreneur if you are white
  • 9 percent of respondents described themselves as entrepreneurial, although this figure rose to 15 percent among 18-24-year-olds
  • 20 percent believed that entrepreneurs are self-interested, 15 percent believed them to be ruthless, and 13 percent consider them egocentric.

“In a recent survey of our start-ups over the past five years at King’s, 82 percent  said that their biggest motivators were solving problems, driving change or finding more effective solutions,” said Devonshire. “Regarding diversity, 39 percent of our start-ups are women-led and 40 percent are BAME.

“We need to change the perceptions to reflect what is really going on among contemporary entrepreneurs so that they are encouraged to recognise their entrepreneurial qualities and act on them. Stereotypes are blocking a diverse group of talented people from realising their potential.”

The King’s Accelerator Programme has now reached 100 ventures, which have generated almost £17m in revenue and raised over £20m in investment, creating 400 jobs.

“The ventures that the institute supports have come up with novel solutions to everyday problems,” says Devonshire. “Anyone can become more entrepreneurial, nobody should feel they are locked-out because they are not like the ‘old guard’, and there is support out there to do so from universities and others.”