An International Entrepreneuring Resilience
We were constantly astounded by the number of applications we get for our Ignite powered by Entrepreneurial Spark hub in Bermuda. Bermuda is a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a population of around 65,000. So, to receive 178 applications for 15 places in the hub during our first intake, really overwhelmed us. But there is a huge entrepreneurial spirit there which cant be ignored.
Image vs reality
There are many things that people don’t realise about this extremely resilient ecosystem and you have to immerse yourself in the culture and social scene to really understand what’s going on. Bermuda is the most expensive country to live in on this planet. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one being that the majority of produce and products are imported. To eat out in Bermuda, namely the capital city Hamilton, You wouldn’t get much change from $100 for a couple eating at a standard High Street restaurant. The average annual wage is $47,000, which remains the highest in the world (with the Cayman Islands creeping up behind them). The cost of living can be expensive, paying for necessities like housing, power, water, groceries, clothing, and petrol for your car can really add up, it becomes a struggle for many hardworking individuals and families to make a living. One other big thing that we didn’t know until visiting was, that there is no fresh water source on the island. The resourcefulness of the people on the island means that they have managed to supply water to businesses and homes for over 400 years from rainfall, wells and reverse Osmosis. This necessity to be resourceful, seems to percolate throughout the ecosystem in Bermuda and isn’t lost when it comes to entrepreneurs.
What does it mean for entrepreneurs?
Well, although out of adversity springs opportunity (excuse the water pun), the gap between zero sales and company survival is a big one. To reach parity with most European startups, entrepreneurs have to double their income in Bermuda. There is also the risk of taking that leap of faith into starting something new, knowing full well that simply surviving on the island means a steady income from somebody in the household, is a must.
Out of this is born a desire, a need and a resilience to motivate people to achieve more. There are countless stories of entrepreneurs having three jobs on the island, simply to afford them the time to work on their passion project. Working every hour of the day simply to support their own family and drive their own idea forward. This breeds a resilience and tenacity which underpins and supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem, giving entrepreneurs a boost and a leg-up when they need it. This level of uncomfortable keeps people on their toes and keeps them in the Optimal Performance level on the Stress/Performance scale.
So is this why entrepreneurship thrives in Bermuda?
After all “Necessity is the mother of invention”, Plato. If you took the entrepreneur out of Bermuda and landed them in a European country, would they still exhibit the level of resilience to motivate themselves to drive forward and achieve more???
This really plays into the nature vs nurture debate or whether entrepreneurs are born or made. To me it feels like the environmental and social factors or “experiences” have shaped a heightened resilience and therefore plays to the required strength an entrepreneur must have. I guess we will never find out the answer to the question above, unless we run a pretty unethical experiment. An interesting question to ask of your own country is, what are the factors influencing the level of grit and determination in your entrepreneurial ecosystem, and what needs to change to positively influence this?
One thing is for sure – if Bermudian entrepreneurs keep doing what they are doing on the island, then globalisation of any product or service for them will look like small fry in comparison to the mighty task of simply starting up in Bermuda.