back to article Instead of public sector non-jobbery, Martha, how about creating real entrepreneurs?

One of the general complaints about the British economy and its capitalism is that we don't seem to aim large. We are good at coming up with new ideas, we've even people who know how to make ideas work. Yet we very rarely seem to build up new entreprenurial companies that then go global. Why hasn't Britain (or even Europe?) …


  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Nick Kew

      "The OpenBSD Foundation is a Canadian not-for-profit corporation ..."

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Our primary distributor Zednax runs the OpenBSD Store and sells our releases worldwide out of the UK.

          Why not out of Luxembourg? At least it would be "mainland". Plus: 17% VAT.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      "Why hasn't Britain (or even Europe?) produced a Google or a Facebook yet?"

      Yes, why hasn't Britain produced an ARM, or a Rolls Royce Aerospace, or an ICI, or an AstraZenica, or a BAE Systems, etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ J.G.Harston

        " why hasn't Britain produced .....a BAE Systems"

        What, that useless company that have never developed any aircraft at pure commercial risk, instead relying on the commercial nous of Hawker Siddeley, building aircraft originally designed decades ago with slide rules? That same useless company that piddled away billions on the over-budget, over-due, never delivered Nimrod MRA4 (after achieving similar ignominy with Nimrod AEW3)? The same company that is behind the over-due, over-budget, fault ridden Astute submarine? The same company behind the vastly expensive and essentially purposeless Typhoon? The same company behind the crummy and costly Bowman radio system?

        Given the incredible heritage of its predecessor companies, BAES is a tragedy that we can hardly be proud of.

        And I might add that ICI was bought by AkzoNobel and no longer exists, although I'll accept that ARM and AstraZeneca are doing well for now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ J.G.Harston

          Not one to normally stick up for British Wasteofspace, but....

          Nimrod MRA4 was a crazy idea to start with, but it needed poor management and risk analysis on the part of the MoD to become the disaster it did.

          Nimrod AEW3 was GEC-Marconi's fault - the airframe was OK, it was GECM's complete lack of ability to produce a working radar system and their insistence on using their own thoroughly inadequate computer that killed it.

          Typhoon - essentially purposeless? Apart from intercepting Bears on a regular basis and dropping bombs on Gaddafi's tanks, that is?

          Bowman? BAES was only a bit player in that; the prime contractor was GD UK.

    3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Despite using OpenSSH on 100% of my servers, and most of my desktops, I had no idea it was available on an official CD.

      So, what was your point?

  2. Nick Kew

    Get everyone digitalling? Whatever that may mean????

    Actually we're pretty good at that, aren't we? From the BBC micro to the raspberry pi, get them hacking. From Prestel to virgin and sky, get them online.

    Oh, er, right, you mean all the most interesting non-commercial efforts - the open source foundations, the campaigners for rights and freedoms - are based elsewhere? Well, fortunately, they're pretty inclusive and welcome Brits as genuine equals with anyone else.

    1. DaveDaveDave

      "Get everyone digitalling? Whatever that may mean"

      I think it translates to 'fingering'.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Zog_but_not_the_first

    Martha Lane-Fox

    I'm with you regarding the eternal puzzle of how/why Martha Lane-Fox has credibility in the digital sector. Ahead of many distinguished commentards on El Reg, for example.

    Wrap her in graphene and chuck her in the North Sea.

    [Note to moderators etc.: The above is simple hyperbole to strengthen the point being made and in no way is meant to incite or condone violence against Ms Lane-Fox.]

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Martha Lane-Fox

      [eternal puzzle of how/why Martha Lane-Fox has credibility]

      Like so many others, she's very good at saying how good she is, and what should be done, but less good at saying 'why' or actually doing it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Martha Lane-Fox

        @Neil Barnes

        And that only works because those she's saying this to are too clueless to realise what utter tosh she spouts.

    2. Nick Kew

      Re: Martha Lane-Fox

      She became part of the Zeitgeist for Blair Feelgood. The ethos of dotcom, the swaying bridge, the vanity dome, etc. And - unlike the politicians - she's never called on to take unpopular decisions, or to explain herself. A bit like royalty. She'd probably have to be caught on camera eating babies before she could ever be dislodged from secular sainthood.

    3. Doctor_Wibble

      OMG Questioning Her Credibility!?!?

      FTFA, a quote from Martha:

      > There is a crisis in skills and the understanding of the digital world’s power and potential, but it is not limited to the corridors of Whitehall or the boardrooms of the City.

      Strangely this lack of understanding did not seem to be a problem when blagging funding for a certain loss-making dotcom company or flogging it before anyone twigged.

      But again it's a bunch of crap from her because the 'non-digital' population are not the problem, it is those boardrooms and corridors of whitehall that still need some basic work with the cluebat. Probably still the same bunch of clueless pillocks and ontraprenooahs and/or chums thereof that paid stupid amounts of money for stupidly overvalued companies back in the day.

      Yes, I hate this 'darling of the dotcom' badge she seems to have been given, which I am sure was not related to the gender non-balance within the industry or amongst its financiers who are the main target here (mind you, nothing to stop Lane Fox from honourably stepping back from it).

    4. Tom 13

      Re: Martha Lane-Fox

      Why would you want to endanger the North Sea like that?

  4. Google

    opportunities we should be grabbing with both hands: education, women and ethics.

    I too think we should be grabbing women with both hands(!)

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      But only in an educated and ethical fashion, of course.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why only women? What about the sheep?

  5. graeme leggett

    Kinquering Congs their titles take

    "there's something about the desired career structure of Brits that leaves us not really interested in conquering the world"

    Because we did it once before. And look what acclaim that got us.

    "White man's burden", "East of Suez", "end of Empire" etc

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kinquering Congs their titles take

      The White Man's Burden is about the (very bloody) US conquest of the Phillipines, and how the US was replacing the UK as the main Imperial power. Kipling is warning the US of the dangers of Empire, of wasting the best talent on fruitlessly trying to modernise poor countries, and in the end seeing "heathen waste and folly set all thy work at naught". He didn't foresee that in the end the heathen waste and folly of the US Empire would be by neocons and Halliburton contractors, but in general he seems to have had the right idea.

      His verse for the UK at the same time was Recessional about the decline of British power - "Far called our navies melt away/on dune and headland sinks the fire/lo, all our pomp of yesterday/is one with Nineveh and Tyre". It's a pity he wasn't listened to; staying neutral in WW1 could well have been the smart strategy, and his own son wouldn't have been pointlessly killed.

      In fact, it is a pity that we aren't even less obsessed with empire (in the senior ranks of government where pols under pressure immediately want to invade somewhere) and more obsessed with national commercial success. But digital isn't perhaps it; the thing about digital is that anybody with a brain can undercut you. Germany does very well of advanced tech, and we need to make more of ours. Self driving cars yes, Shoreditch webtwattery please no.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Kinquering Congs their titles take

        "It's a pity he wasn't listened to; staying neutral in WW1 could well have been the smart strategy, and his own son wouldn't have been pointlessly killed."

        This makes no sense whatsoever. Kiplimng was very enthusiastic about the war, wrote some extremely jingoistic (and for him poor) poerty to supprot it and help recruit for it and helped get his son a commission in the irish guards. Kipling was not against the war until his son was killed and even then it is unclear if he was against the war or just the conduct of the war.

        The idea that Britain could ride out WW1 staying neutral is the same fantasy as Britain riding out WW2 and staying neutral. What would be the prospects for Britain once an aggressive militaristic Germany had conquered Europe and Russia? Much better strategy to fight early rather than later against a triumphant germany with all the resources of europe and asia at a time of the Germans choosing.

        The choice was between a unpleasant dangerous and costly war now or a substanitally more dangerous and difficult war later.

    2. Andy Davies

      Re: Kinquering Congs their titles take


      " we very rarely seem to build up new entreprenurial companies that then go global....

      ...this again clashes with the usual diagnosis that being British is excessively rapacious ..."

      The East India Company comes to mind - outrageously successful for a very very long time --- if only they'd had vaseline for those cartridges.....

  6. phil dude

    get rich quick - just inherit.

    The running joke in biology is if you want a long and health life, pick good parents.

    So if you want a wealthy life, pick rich parents.

    Or at least find someone to pay for your education.....


  7. Anonymous Coward

    And here was me thinking it was simply because the people with the brains to actually implement this stuff get paid a quarter what they would elsewhere, and then have twice as much of it nicked by the taxman.

    But no, it's obviously all down to the suits. Obviously.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      In fairness, it's the suits that usually set the pay rates.

      1. Graham Marsden

        Well, yes. Because the ones with the brains and the ideas are not making it to the top and the ones at the top are too busy awarding themselves massive bonuses and getting their bought-and-paid-for cronies in Government to say "that's fine, because they're providing lots of (zero hours and minimum wage) jobs which make it look as if we're helping the country instead of ham-stringing it and besides, when we stop being MPs we're in line for a nice lucrative directorship..."

  8. Rick Brasche

    Our apologies

    we here on the other side of the ocean would like to apologize for the creation of Facebook and Google and what's being done to the world's informational/intellectual freedom in the name of crony capitalism.

    It may be that's what we're doing "better" (for values of "better" actually negative) than Britain for "making" corporations. Press and political hyperbole aside, it doesn't seem as if your government is choosing winners and losers based on transparent (also for values one would consider "opaque") financial largesse and appointment of crony personnel into critical industry monitor apparatus.

    In other words, I don't think it's a bad thing Britain lacks a Google or Facebook. one could have a dozen companies producing a thousand jobs each and the consumer (and society) be better off than one company with 12 thousand jobs.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just remember, in the 1980s

    for a sneeze of time, the UK was regarded as the world leader in IT education. US policymakers would visit, and return back to Uncle Sam broken men.

    Can't imagine what happened.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. hplasm

        Re: Just remember, in the 1980s

        for a sneeze of time, the UK was regarded as the world leader in IT education. US policymakers would visit, and return back to Uncle Sam broken men.

        Can't imagine what happened.



        1. fruitoftheloon

          @hplasm: Re: Just remember, in the 1980s


          yup she did nowt but evil...

          I mean wasn't the phone, leccy and gas monopolies, sorry companies excellent beacons of customer service and innovation?

          Plus we should be supporting archaic industries that couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery obviously...

          I have fond memories re trying to 'educate' a staunch socialist family member that Thatcher did not crucify the British car industry, but shite products, dipshit managers, f'wit unions and deluded staff did...

          About 20 yrs ago I was working on-site with a well known consultancy that was trying to turn around a failing uk manufacturer. On day 1 of our 'have you got any ideas' session a senior production mgr said with a perfectly straight face that 'if our customers don't like what we make, that is their problem...'

          He (and all of his colleagues) were on the dole in 18 months.

          It was genuinely terrible what happened to many mining communities, but times change and the world still contines to rotate.

          My granddad was a docker in East London, he saw the writing on the wall and took early retirement.

          My ha'pennies



          1. hplasm

            Re: @hplasm: Just remember, in the 1980s

            "Thatcher did not crucify the British car industry."

            No need to.

            She did make sure that cross and nail manufacturing shares were available to all though. And then sold off the companies that made them.

            Trebles all round!

            1. fruitoftheloon

              @hplasm Re: @hplasm: Just remember, in the 1980s


              err what?

              (I have only had one coffee so far, hence the brain isn't quite in gear yet...)



          2. Chris Miller

            Re: @hplasm: Just remember, in the 1980s

            European deep coal mining was doomed by the development of efficient shipping that allowed much cheaper surface-mined coal to be imported. No doubt the end of the UK mining industry was accelerated by the pig-headed stupidity of Scargill, but if anyone wants to claim that Thatcher was responsible, they would need to account for the fact that (e.g.) all the German deep mines closed at roughly the same time.

            I believe the only deep mines still operating in Europe are in Poland, and if anyone wanted to work down a pit for Polish rates of pay and to Polish safety standards, we could probably reopen deep mines in the UK.

            Much the same argument applies to dockers - doomed by the invention of the container, only the timing had an element of political choice.

            1. Ossi

              Re: @hplasm: Just remember, in the 1980s

              The number of mines and mining employment (with the odd blip) had been falling in the UK since 1938.



            2. Tom 13

              @Chris Miller

              Be careful there Chris. If you go quoting actual facts and things you might get them riled up. Then they'll call up some of their football buddies and get them riled up too. Next thing you know you'll have a riot, or worse a civil war on your hands.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Just remember, in the 1980s

        >Thatcher took a ZX Spectrum to Japan, to demonstrate British technology.

        And then she said "if you are a manufacturer leave now"

  10. codejunky Silver badge


    "Imagine a new kind of digital organisation, diverse and independent but with a strong mandate from government."

    I imagine it. An organisation spending lots on IT but nobody who knows how to turn it on. A lot of gear written off as it serves no purpose. A diverse group of every ethnicity and possibly even gender but not a technical skill among them. And of course with the further fleecing of the population by getting the gov to steal it for her as the population wouldnt willingly pay. But in the end I see a vision, it is so clear, absolutely nothing changes except tax payers have the privilege of letting the capitalist aspect of this country slip further away. But with the election coming I see it slipping away anyhow.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Change needed, please. Get rid of the hooks and crooks in suits making nothing

    Do you think the problem could be .... far too many non producers sucking at the teat of those who are creative and taxing them for a share of the bounty? And spinning themselves as being indispensable to the program.

    And government is the major parasite in that field, is it not? And banks thinking that they be in control of things with the supply of fiat paper and credit which they then virtualise and realise as debt to be repaid to the ponzi with interest. And they know that it is a scam which enslaves nations and is certainly evil but oh so addictively simple a system to manipulate the masses.

    No wonder they are battening down hatches as their actions and its consequences and rewards are more widely understood and a cause for terror and concern.

    1. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      Re: Change needed, please. Get rid of the hooks and crooks in suits making nothing


      The Golgafrincham ship B is not full enough....


      1. Zog_but_not_the_first

        Re: Change needed, please. Get rid of the hooks and crooks in suits making nothing

        Wasn't it the Golgafrincham B Ark?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Change needed, please. Get rid of the hooks and crooks in suits making nothing

      But remember that banking provides millions of good jobs and supports entire communities, and doesn't require subsidies like nasty dirty non-digitial (analog?) industry

  12. Mark 85 Silver badge

    No problem...

    Why hasn't Britain (or even Europe?) produced a Google or a Facebook yet?

    We'll give you Facebook but you have to take Zuck as part of the deal. Fair enough?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No problem...

      "We'll give you Facebook but you have to take Zuck as part of the deal. Fair enough?"

      That would be Lord Zuckerberg of Shoreditch to you. The British government would love him, he'd have a private island protected by naval patrols from sightseers, and he would control every cctv camera in the country.

      The problem is, the UK is too small for his ambitions.

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    IT Angle

    The reason is fairly simple

    and was covered by the beeb recently

    To summerise.

    What us brits have been good at doing is coming up with the brilliant idea.

    The wine glass with the inbuilt cooling system to keep your wine at exactly the right temperature for example.

    However , you now want to manufacture said wine glass, so you goto the bank for a loan and the bank says "far too risky, pissoff, we've got some AAAA rated sub-prime morgages to buy"

    So you goto the next source of funding, the stock market.

    Someone says "good idea, I'll risk 10 million on this venture in return for 49% of the shares"

    5 months later said wine glass is now a world beater, sales are up 200% on last week, profits are coming in, another factory has been built , again by issuing shares on the stock market.

    Original backer notices his shares are now worth 20 million... time to cash in, other share owners also decide its time to cash in.

    Suddenly, the guy with the idea realises he does'nt own the company any more, the shareholders force a hostile takeover, chuck him out and re-locate the factories to the far east in order to increase profits, then a US mega corp already making wine glasses buys up all the shares and stores the profits in the Cayman islands.

    Inventor looks at the results and says "wow that was a wild 8 month ride" and tries to start again.

    And gets sued out of business by the US mega corp.

    1. Ossi

      Re: The reason is fairly simple

      @Boris the Cockroach

      I challenge you to find a single example that's actually followed that route - especially the 'moving the factory to China' and 'suing' bits.

      If the company was ever to be a success the wine glass would have been made in China in the first place. You're going to sell your business for a lot more if it has solid patents and non-compete clauses to protect it from competition. It's in your interests not to go and set up a competitor (or, more to the point, not be able to do that) the minute you leave.

      The "problem" (if there is one) is one that you do mention - investors want to cash out, not build something permanent. Sometimes the founders want to bale out as. All of this is neatly illustrated by one

      But is this really a problem? That happens everywhere. All the big American internet businesses are constantly acquiring start ups, so someone must be selling them. The UK tech sector is doing fine. There are few to no equivalents to Google and Facebook anywhere else in the world without a Great Firewall. I sense collective 'wisdom' and confirmation bias at work here.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got an idea - implement it!

    Lane-Fox is part of the upper-middle class who have an idea, but not the talent and/or technical know-how to implement it, so pay minions a pittance to implement it for them, while they sit back and take all the glory (ie money). It's like the way people used to say something like "Lord Toffington-Smythe built the Suez Canal" - he had the idea, oversaw it, but the labourers actually built it.

    Now she's part of this clique who schmooze around, 'enabling' people, While there's an overpaid managerial/political class in this country, Digital will never take off as it should.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I've got an idea - implement it!

      Joseph Bazalgette DID build London's sewers, he had the idea, lobbied for it, did the experiments, hand drew 1000s of plans, checked and commented on 10,000s of documents and oversaw pretty much every brick. His great grandson made far more money by making crap TV programs.

      One of them was "digitally enabled"


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