Are Basques enterprising?
The jury is still out on answering this question, and opinions are sharply divided. In order to answer it, however, we first perhaps need to ask what it means to be an entrepreneur since the definition will determine whether Basques are in fact enterprising, or not.
The official definition of an entrepreneur is someone who founds a company. There are, nonetheless, growing numbers who insist that being an entrepreneur is actually a life-long attitude and that all of us are potential entrepreneurs capable of developing and thinking, creating and innovating in personal, social and professional arenas.
According to a recent report on the Basque Region by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2013*, around 3% of Basque people are entrepreneurs by ‘official’ definition, having founded a company in the last 3 years. This 3% figure is notably lower than the 5-6% of the pre-crisis years, and the current European average of 8%. Interestingly, though, the low rate of entrepreneurship in Euskadi correlates with income levels and the TEA (Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity) which indicates that societies with lower levels of entrepreneurial activity actually present high levels of economic development and welfare.
Activity-wise, newly founded Basque companies fall into the following 3 categories: 51% offer consumer services to individuals, 33% services to companies, and lastly, only 14% are involved in industrial activities. Of these start-ups (<3 yrs.), 39% have at least one employee, and although only a few have an international focus (only 13% have a foreign client), these new Basque companies are noted for the novelty of their products and technologies compared to the Spanish average.
Is this enough data to quantify entrepreneurial activity in Euskadi? In response, we would have to say ‘no’ if we were to remain within the parameters of the wider definition vis-à-vis income levels and the TEA. At B+I Strategy, we believe that other, often overlooked, facets of entrepreneurship must be considered, such as the percentage of employees who undertake activities of intra/entrepreneurship, or corporate entrepreneurship (5%), or even the number of teachers and students (40,500 and 465,000 respectively) who participate in entrepreneurial activities. Only with a broader perspective, will we be able to properly assess the entrepreneurial character of Basque society as a whole.
* Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013 (published July 2014)