Start Up Britain accused of being commercial link farm

The government-backed private sector initiative Start Up Britain has been accused of a lack of clarity over its commercial interests.

Billed as a service in which a group of established entrepreneurs help those interested in starting in business, and heralded by none other than David Cameron, Start Up Britain has come under significant fire from users, who are making allegations that it is little more than a ‘link farm’ offering no real help other than links to other businesses.

While it has been claimed Start Up Britain supports businesses with £1,500 worth of help, the assistance offered takes the form of what are essentially ‘coupon’ offers, such as reductions in prices of services rather than offering useful help.

Furthermore, the fact that a number of these businesses hail from the US is just one aspect that has caused controversy, and has led to a number of spoof sites lampooning the project.

And now it is being claimed that the site has showed a lack of clarity in the commercial interests of the band of business leaders at the helm of the project.

Emma Jones, one of the entrepreneurs leading the project, has been accused of a conflict of interest over the offer of a number of deals that can also be found in a book which she has released separately, named The Start Up Kit, which gives readers access to deals with major firms such as Google advertising.

Clarity is something that Oli Barrett, one of the founders of the site, has reportedly agreed needs to be made clearer, as while the ringing endorsement of the PM gives an air of governmental approval it appears that concerns are growing over the purpose and basis of the site.

Of course, as a project run by those representing private firms it is unsurprising that there is a commercial aspect, however with a lack of real help to businesses in the form of real expertise for users, it seems as though commerce may be prevailing.

Start Up Britain is aimed as a “response from the private sector to the Government’s call for an ‘enterprise-led’ recovery” but as a commercially based venture, albeit a non-profit, there are doubts over whether it can offer the help to new business without demanding a lot back, as exhibited in the ‘deals’ on offer.

This is not to say that the private sector is unable to help in the promotion of UK business, with Barrett himself part of the highly successful Web Mission projects which have seen the combination of public and private spheres leading to a common goal.

While the project is arguably laudable in principle, it may be necessary to offer more to users if it is going to get anywhere.