Globally, mentors matter wherever you find people aspiring to be entrepreneurs

by Ryan Streeter on November 29, 2011. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Over the Thanksgiving break, Gallup released data from its World Poll on the percentage of people in 83 countries who plan to start a business in the next 12 months.

They ask respondents in the poll whether or not they have a mentor. Those with a mentor are more likely to say they’ll start a business. ┬áSo, for instance, in North America, 10% of people with a mentor say they have plans to start a business, compared with 2% who don’t have a mentor.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, plans to start a business are highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, where large segments of the population are self-employed as the only real means of income. Still, mentorship matters: 25% with a mentor have plans to be entrepreneurial compared with 13% who don’t have a mentor.

So by now, like me, you might be wondering: how does Europe stack up on these figures? Only 5% of Europeans with mentors plan to start a business compared to 1% without mentors. Statistically, these numbers practically suggest the non-existence of entrepreneurship as an aspiration in Europe.

Now, there is evidence to suggest that entrepreneurial activity in Europe is quite a bit better than what we assume (I’ll treat this at a later date), but the Gallup data shines a light on perceptions of entrepreneurship. And what seems clear is that, from a global perspective, Europe lags the entire world when it comes to creating an entrepreneurial class within itself. It’s kind of unfair to lump all Euro countries into “Europe” on this front, since innovation and entrepreneurship is healthier up north than in the south, but still…..European statism has won such a heavy-handed victory over enterprise for decades that entrepreneurship as an aspiration is an amazing rarity in the land of many of our forbears.

One thing you can say, though, is that having a mentor in Europe increases the odds of entrepreneurship in a big way. Even more so in the former Soviet states.

There may not be too many lessons for policymakers in all this, but one stands out: angel investors, who engage much more in mentor roles than traditional VC investors, should grow as a percentage of the overall investment class. And one way to encourage that is to have a competitive venture capital tax credits in a state or country, compared to your neighbors. While all investors take advantage of them, they are especially useful as an incentive to newer angel networks that are looking for ways to minimize risk and exposure at every level.