Island urged to embrace enterprising spirit

Bermuda’s would-be business tycoons are key to the economic future of the country, the Chamber of Commerce heard yesterday.

And Dennis Fortnum, the Canada-based global head of KPMG Enterprise, which specialises in business start-ups, said that Island entrepreneurs should think on a global level to boost the economy at home.

Mr Fortnum said that Bermuda should look outside of its traditional industries of international business and tourism — and use technology to grow new enterprises on an international scale.

He added: “The global economy is getting so connected these days — there are a lot of opportunities for Bermuda to think beyond its geographic space.

“That’s the challenge — coming up with strategies that go beyond the Island and will sustain the Island.”

Mr Fortnum was speaking after he made the keynote speech at the Chamber’s annual general meeting on entrepreneurs and their role as drivers of economic growth, which was sponsored by financial services firm KPMG.

He added that “business is virtual these days” and Bermuda’s relative isolation ceased to be a handicap in a internet-based marketplace.

Mr Fortnum said: “If you put the right conditions in place and put the right programmes in place to support these new industries, the opportunity is there.”

He explained that Governments could play a major role in stimulating new businesses by making it easier for start-ups to get off the ground.

“The things we see most governments doing is simplifying the way small and medium enterprises do business — exempting them from many of the regulations and providing concierge services so entrepreneurs can phone up and get help. It’s reducing the red tape.”

He added that the public sector could also help by offering financial help, office space and connecting entrepreneurs with each other and with larger established businesses they could partner with.

“Quite frankly, most governments around the world are recognising the significance of the job creation that’s been generated by these entrepreneurs.”

Mr Fortnum added: “The life cycle in companies is a fraction of what it used to be. If you identify the right business, they become very large much quicker than they used to.

“Things are changing much quicker than they ever have. You have to have your ear to the ground to identify these new industries which are evolving.”

Earlier, Mr Fortnum told a packed Chamber lunch at the HSBC Harbourview Centre, after the organisation’s annual general meeting, that global giants like internet search engine Google and online retailer Amazon had begun in garages attached to their founders’ homes, while sportswear firm Nike was originally run out of the trunk of a car.

“They all started with an idea in a garage or a trunk. After working with entrepreneurs for the last 30 years, there has never been a better time to start a business.”

He added that 40 million new jobs had been created in the US over the last 30 years from start-ups, while global revenue from entrepreneurs totalled $37 trillion — 40 per cent of gross worldwide gross domestic product (GDP).

Mr Fortnum said that social media site Facebook alone had led to 4.5 million “spin-off jobs”

“Not every business will do that — but every new business will create spin-off jobs in communities.”

But Mr Fortnum said: “The true contribution of entrepreneurs can’t be measured by simple statistics ... they are advancing our communities with new ideas and changing lives around the globe.

“These ideas stimulate the economy in new ways and the multiplier effect can be significant.”

He added that “millions” of new businesses were run from laptops or tablets, while the internet and social media had revolutionised marketing and slashed costs, as well as providing a global stage for new products.

Mr Fortnum said non-traditional sources of funding — like crowd funding — had also helped lead to a boom in mew businesses being founded and venture capital of $50 million in 2014, double the figure of the previous year, had been invested in innovative business ideas.

Mr Fortnum singled out Bermuda’s pioneering aerial survey business Aerial Media Services and subsidiary Skymatics, which last year won a top international prize in an international competition in Greece, as a good example of an Island business that had spread its wings outside its homeland.

The firm, run by Connor Burns and EJ Burrows, was originally set up with support from the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.

Mr Fortnum said: “Even though I am not from here, I have already seen you have great programmes and support to build up entrepreneurship.

“Clearly, there is huge potential for entrepreneurship in Bermuda. It’s terrific to see how these programmes have grown and how they’re being embraced — and clearly the results are coming.

“You never know where the next Google might be created — it could be right here in a local garage.”

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Published Apr 22, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 21, 2015 at 8:07 pm)

Island urged to embrace enterprising spirit

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