The best thing governments can do to support entrepreneurship is step aside and become “invisible”, according to Xavier Damman, CEO and founder of Tweetag, an Internet company.
Xavier Damman is CEO and founder of Internet company Tweetag.
Please describe your business and how you launched it.
We provide online media with interesting real time content for their audience that we find on Twitter. We launched our website in November 2008. The first goal was to extract the mostly discussed topics out of Twitter. We had a lot of press coverage from PC World to Techcrunch and Washington Post. At that time we had three engineers working after our hours. Two of us jumped into this project part-time in early 2009. Since April we have had two full-time staff.
How can governments help small businesses?
By being as invisible as possible. A government is like the operating system of your computer. It is a necessary piece of software and overhead to make all the different components work together. And the best government, as the best operating system, is the one you can forget about. It’s the one that lets you focus on your activities. Whether they are business, sport, or family-related.
Most questions a European entrepreneur is asking himself are ‘how should I take care of this paperwork?’, ‘What status should I take?’, ‘What subsidies exist for my field of business?’ Whereas the real questions he should really focus on are: ‘How can I change the world?,’ ‘What’s wrong and what can I do to fix it?,’ ‘Would people pay for that fix, for that painkiller?,’ ‘How much?’ In other words, ‘How can I bring value to our society?’
So governments should focus these questions: How can we be invisible? How can we interact less with entrepreneurs so that they can focus on what they want? Subsidies are the wrong way to go because they create more useless interactions with the entrepreneur.
A good way to go is to focus on open data to make government more democratic. I want all the data held by my government to be open to any third party I choose. This will foster a new generation of entrepreneurs who will develop products such as ‘Outright’ here in San Francisco, which helps freelance people fill their tax sheets. In other words, it is a painkiller for your interactions with the administration, it makes your government feel more invisible. Make all the processes transparent and open so that other people will be able to make the good tools that will help many more entrepreneurs than any yet another subsidy plan.
I know the argument against entrepreneurs: “You guys never want to have contacts with governments because you don’t want to pay taxes.” That’s absolutely false. I’m happy to pay taxes and contribute to the society. Remember every entrepreneur goal is to make the world a better place, one customer at a time.
Have you heard of the Small Business Act, and if so, do you think it will help?
I’ve never heard of it because I – and many others – have other things to do than focus my attention on more interactions with any government. That’s why all these measures are non-democratic. You need to be in the know to get this help.