It’s rather obvious that regulatory barriers, taxes, and legal hurdles are no friend of the aspiring entrepreneur. The challenge of creating a product from scratch and building a successful company from nothing is more than strenuous enough without the added burden of tax and regulatory compliance. At best, a lot of entrepreneurs ignore the government and operate as if it doesn’t exist; at worst, many entrepreneurs (and in some cases, rightfully so) view the government as an enemy. However, governments do in fact provide a whole host of resources and opportunities for startups and burgeoning entrepreneurs to grow their business. Adopting either of the previously-mentioned mindsets is depriving you and your company of incredibly valuable funding, networking opportunities, mentorship, and business support.
Here are three government resources that your startup could benefit immensely and immediately from, but is probably overlooking:
1. Grants and Direct Funding
A 2015 study conducted by PwC revealed that close to 50% of Canadian startups haven’t even tried applying for the billions of dollars of funding for entrepreneurs that the country offers. A ten-second Google search leads to literally hundreds of government-backed funding opportunities for startups in jurisdictions across the globe. Whether you’re in Canada, the US, the UK, or pretty much anywhere else in the world, your jurisdiction is offering hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and loans that you’re not taking advantage of and should be.
The beauty of many government grants and subsidies is that more often than not, there is no expectation of repayment like there is with private venture capital. As long as you use the grant for the purposes you negotiated, that money is yours to invest in your company and you won’t have to pay a dime of it back. Furthermore, if you met the program requirements of a particular grant once, it’s very likely that that same government program will be willing to fund you again in the future.
2. Business Clinics, Training, and Mentorship
Nearly every city, province, or state in the Western Hemisphere offers small business centers and support services that provide entrepreneurs with the tools they need to start and grow their businesses. Whether it’s advice and research, mentorship programs, networking events, or direct business training and clinics, these small business centers can provide tons of incredibly valuable support and practical help for your business. Considering that accessing these government services and support is completely free, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by accessing the business support services that your city provides.
3. Connections and Networking
It’s become cliché to talk about the importance of networking and meeting the right people for your business to grow. However, the fact is that most entrepreneurs aren’t taking advantage of the host of resources that governments provide in connecting entrepreneurs with the people they need to know. Virtually every government in the Western Hemisphere has some form of NSERC, a Canadian agency that connects companies with professors, specialized knowledge, and research services in the academic sector. Similarly, if your startup is looking to export its products to foreign markets, consider engaging with your jurisdiction’s export development agency so you make the right connections to enable your product to go global. Local governments host many networking events and often facilitate the direct relationship building that can take your startup to the next level.
Whether it’s funding opportunities or valuable business training, governments across the globe provide hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free value to entrepreneurs who are willing to access them. Don’t deprive your company of new accelerators for growth. Governments are here to stay, so why not take full advantage of everything they’ve got to offer?
Illustration courtesy of Wanderer Online Design Editor Janelle Holod.