Entrepreneurship: is it in our DNA?

Jun 01, 2019

Jamal Edwards, who founded SBTV Global as a teenager.

A GROUND-BREAKING study seeking to explore the UK’s entrepreneurial genetic profile is to take one of the deepest dives yet to discover the role that DNA can play in entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs and leaders behind thousands of SME businesses in the UK are being urged to participate in the Entrepreneur Gene Project, a genetics study which seeks to spark a wider debate about what makes UK business, and the environment in which it operates, unique.

The new DNA-based study has been commissioned on the back of preliminary research that explored the nation’s perception of entrepreneurs. Of 2,000 respondents, 55% believed that individuals are born with the skills to become entrepreneurs. Nurture and upbringing is the most important factor, said 21%.

Other key findings included:

  • 77% of those interviewed would not class themselves as an entrepreneur;
  • Nearly two thirds (65%) believe the UK is inherently entrepreneurial;
  • 72% of those who class themselves as an entrepreneur said they knew by the age of 20 that they had this trait.

Mercedes-Benz Vans UK has teamed up with leaders in genetics research to better understand the entrepreneurial genetic makeup of the UK. The Entrepreneur Gene Project is being conducted by principal investigator Thomas Roos, of Stanford University in the USA, with scientists from Liverpool John Moores University and genetics company DNAfit. They will explore the genetic make-up of entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, investigating the potential genetic contribution to different kinds of entrepreneurism using a method known as Genome-Wide Association

The Entrepreneur Gene Project is part of Mercedes-Benz Vans’ commitment to ‘keeping businesses moving’ and focuses on the small and medium-sized firms that employ more than 50% of private sector workers in the UK. The project is being fronted by Jamal Edwards, who as a teenager founded his digital media empire SBTV Global. The Londoner regularly visits schools to talk to young people about their futures. “I tell school kids that creating a business takes knowledge, passion, dedication and self-belief,” he says. “At the beginning it probably means holding down a 9 to 5 job at the same time – I was working in retail for four years before SBTV started to take off.”

He was working on his media platform for years before he turned a profit or took on any employees. “More than anything, people should work to create a business that they are passionate about and that means something to them.”

Mercedes-Benz Vans wants to create a wider debate about the uniqueness of UK business and the environment in which it operates. “We have a long history as a country of breaking new ground, and making things happen,” says managing director Steve Bridge. “The fact that our own customers consistently demonstrate the same levels of drive fascinates us. What makes them so motivated? What unites them? What worries them? Where does their shared entrepreneurial spirit come from? Is it nature or nurture?

“We want to know because the more we know about what drives the UK’s business leaders, the better we can help those who use Mercedes-Benz vans to support their own enterprises.”

 “I am very excited to be supporting this important project,” says Jamal. “Hopefully it will shed some light on the source of my own drive and motivation to keep working at it, which is something I have been curious to discover. If it also helps other people to discover more about themselves, that can only be a good thing.”

Mr Bridge adds: “Jamal embodies the British spirit of entrepreneurialism which continues to thrive. In the era of the ‘side-hustle’, and with increasing numbers of new businesses emerging across the UK, are the daring upstarts behind them products of their environment, or were they born with innate entrepreneurial abilities? We intend to find out.”

To take part in the project, visit https://entrepreneurgeneproject.com

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