Startup online, Minister tells jobless


UK Enterprise Minister urges Britain’s unemployed ‘start Internet-based businesses from home’.

start up from your kitchen table minister urges

Jollie’s Socks and Cakes by Laura – just two businesses that have made it from the bedroom and the kitchen onto the internet.

Matthew Hancock, the Conservative Minister of State for Enterprise Skills and Energy has announced a package of incentives to make life easier for home-based entrepreneurs at London’s Makerversity business incubator in Somerset House.

The Minister promised that ‘kitchen-table’ startups will in future be exempt from paying commercial rates, and landlords would not be allowed to issue tenancy agreements that prohibit the use of a rented home for commercial purposes.

Matthew Hancock

Conservative Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock

Slow broadband

FI’s Jane Whyatt asked the Minister how he expects new enterprises to grow, given the slow roll-out of superfast broadband. Hancock acknowledged that only certain British cities have fibre-optic cables allowing fast download and upload speeds, but promised that 93% of mainland Britain would be up to speed by 2015 . Given that home-based workers often have families or flatmates all sharing the same wifi hotspot, FI questioned what the Minister will do to ensure the new crop of startups he anticipates is safe from cybercrime. He responded by saying the Government was freeing up company directors’ time by cutting red tape, and that would give them more time to concentrate on protecting their IP and educating themselves about the risks.


Clutching a pair of brightly-coloured striped socks, he praised the young entrepreneur Ed Vickers who started his sock-making social enterprise at home whilst still a student at Exeter University in Devon. Vickers said that studying biosciences did not seem to lead to an obvious career path, so he set up the Jolllie’s Socks business with the aim of helping homeless people. For every pair of socks that is sold, the company gives a pair to a local shelter for street-dwellers close to where the buyer lives. Matthew Hancock, a Conservative minister in the Coalition Government, claims that this type of student enterprise justifies the Government’s controversial policy of raising university tuition fees, since students are forced to pay back their loans as soon as they graduate and so they need to create an income whilst they are still in higher education. In the USA universities keep a proportion of the equity in campus startups, where there have been notable successes such as Facebook – created at Stanford, Silicon Valley’s home university and Microsoft which sprang from Bill Gates’s alma mater Harvard.

New life

Hancock is the MP for West Suffolk – a rural constituency with a significant proportion of weekend cottages, holiday homes and residents who commute to work in larger towns. In his London speech he emphasised that home-working can bring new life to ‘dormitory’ towns and villages, boosting the local economy and attracting investment.

Enterprise Nation supports home-based businesses

Helping home-based businesses to help themselves is Enterprise Nation, a startup that supports and co-ordinates activities and was the driving force behind the event hosted by the Enterprise Minister.

FI Editor Peter Warren comments: “This announcement is welcome – as far as it goes. But it does not go far enough to really help small rural businesses that are struggling with slow broadband speeds and a chronic skill shortage in cybersecurity.

“Nor does it offer any significant help in terms advice, support  or finance, all of which are essential for online start-ups more significantly Mr Hancock has not said how the Department of Work and Pensions will view this – if you are involved in an online start-up you are not exactly available for work.”