In the “old days,” starting a business was akin to climbing Everest – yes, it could be done, but only by a very few brave souls. And while some risk-takers reached the summit, some were inevitably swept under the weight and speed of an avalanche.
Today, entrepreneurs are as ubiquitous as a soy latte. If entrepreneurs are truly born and not made, there seems to be one born every minute now.
So what has led to this entrepreneurial explosion we seem to have been silently marching toward for decades? Just how has entrepreneurship changed in the 21stcentury?
Entrepreneurs are Getting Younger
Did you know that JP Morgan was in his 50s before he saw any kind of real banking success? In decades past, it was not uncommon to see entrepreneurs in their 30s and 40s making a go of it. In fact, that was kind of the unspoken rule – make sure you had a degree or two under your belt and the experience and drive to bring your vision to life before you announced you were going into business for yourself.
Today’s entrepreneurs are younger, much younger in some instances. It is no longer mandatory you wear a business suit to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur – if you have the next greatest idea for a tech startup – a hoodie and flip-flops will do.
The information age of the Internet has given all of us unbridled access to an endless wealth of knowledge. A 17-year-old can sit on his bed doing market research and scouring the globe for the right angel investor. If you have a solid idea and the desire to bring it to life, age and education level are no longer important. In this way, technology has truly leveled the playing field.
The Playing Field is More Diverse
Because of easier access to information, business technologies, and start-up capital, a growing number of female and minority entrepreneurs are throwing their hats into the business ring and finding great success.
In the last ten years, the number of women-owned firms reporting $10 million or more in annual sales has jumped by 75%. Minority-owned businesses are also booming in the US. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of minority business enterprises increased from 5.8 million to 8.0 million.
This trend is expected to continue as the newest generation of business owners reflect the country’s growing diversity.
Technology Developments Offer a Lower Barrier to Entry
Entrepreneurs no longer need to hang out the proverbial sign on a brick-and-mortar business. Thanks to the internet, entire businesses are created and run online from any place in the world. It is unbelievably easy to do business with someone from another country from the comfort of your living room.
Technology has also significantly eliminated the need for huge startup capital. Most web hosting companies offer monthly rates as low as $10, and blogging platforms like WordPress even allow users to post content completely free. This cuts out the huge risk factor that typically keeps people from chasing their entrepreneurial dreams.
Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram make it easy for new businesses owners to promote, market, and build their brand online.
Delivery of digital products is quick and efficient and does not require someone to rent a warehouse and store physical products. And, there is virtually no overhead with an online business – all you need is a laptop and mobile phone.
But what technology has really done is allowed entrepreneurs to monetize their passions and build profitable businesses, in some cases without even setting out to do so.
Entrepreneurship has changed significantly in the last 20 years, bringing a spirit of potential to an entirely new segment of the workforce. As our economy continues to limp along, and we continue to look to entrepreneurs to dig us out of this mess, it becomes even more critical that those who wish to start a small business have every opportunity.