Last week I gave a lecture on the State of Entrepreneurship in the Netherlands at the opening event of the Global Entrepreneurship Week. If you look at the number of new firms and independent entrepreneurial activity in the Netherlands over the last decade, you can see a doubling of these numbers, elevating the Netherlands far beyond most of the European benchmark countries (including Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden). A miracle in itself, and one is tempted to say ‘the State of Entrepreneurship is Strong in the Netherlands’. However, there is some ambiguity if you delve more deeply into these numbers. The growth of entrepreneurship in the Netherlands is largely a growth of solo self-employed, and not of entrepreneurs with high growth ambitions. The devil is in the definition. The State of Entrepreneurship is Strong(er) in the Netherlands, but there is no reason to be satisfied: we can be a bit more ambitious. The State of Entrepreneurship in the Netherlands needs a second transition.
Today, public and private leaders and her Majesty the Queen Maxima will gather in The Hague to discuss the State of SMEs (De Staat van het MKB) in the Netherlands. Here also the devil is in the definition: how do we define SMEs, and why do we think this is an important category in economy and society? My argument would be that entrepreneurship is the source of diversity in the economy, diversity that is a necessary element of economic progress. Much of this diversity finds its way into the economy via the ‘SME sector’: the generation, application and diffusion of new ideas. However, a substantial part of the SME sector is not involved in this game, and a lot of entrepreneurial action takes place within large enterprises (entrepreneurial employees) and in new coalitions of solopreneurs. So we need to go beyond the traditional focus on SMEs as the category of entrepreneurship, and both broaden and narrow our view on the State of Entrepreneurship.
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