The best thing governments can do to support entrepreneurship is to step aside and become “invisible”, Xavier Damman, CEO and founder of Internet company Tweetag, told EURACTIV in an interview.
Damman, himself a Belgian high-tech entrepreneur, says innovative start-ups spend too long worrying about paperwork instead of focusing on developing new products which will generate income.
He says offering subsidies is not the right approach to supporting entrepreneurship, adding that new companies need less interaction have with bureaucracy.
“Governments should focus on finding ways to be invisible. They should ask how they can interact less with entrepreneurs so that young companies can focus on what they want to do. Subsidies are the wrong way to go because they create more useless interactions with the entrepreneur,” Damman said.
He likens the role of government to a computer operating system, describing it as necessary but adding that it should stay in the background.
“Government is a necessary piece of software for making all the different components work together. And the best government, like 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.”
Asked if he was aware of action being taken to support small businesses in Europe through the Small Business Act (SBA), Damman said he had never heard of it.
“I – and many others – have other things to do than focus our attentions 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.”
Damman has swapped Brussels for San Francisco where he continues to grow his business, which provides online media companies with content found on Twitter. The company began life last year with just three engineers working in their spare time, but now has two full-time staff.
After press coverage in the Washington Post, PC World and the influential Techcrunch blog, the Tweetag Twitter search facility has gained a higher profile as a means of ‘browsing the Twittosphere’.
He said he is very impressed with the pro-enterprise culture in San Francisco. “I’ve been very impressed by the atmosphere. It’s really an entrepreneurial state of mind here. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be here and I’m learning a lot,” Damman said.