An entrepreneur is one whose dreams are bigger than his or her resources. These are people who dream of making a mark in the universe. They take risks, challenge the status quo and are not afraid of picking themselves up when they fall flat on their face. They dust their clothes and continue walking as if nothing had happened.
The changing nature of work. Besides full time work, now there is contract work, part-time work, freelance options and the option to be an individual supplier. Connectivity and the acceptance of telecommuting is letting lots of people dip their feet into the entrepreneurial pool with relatively small risks and then chuck the full time work once the venture grows to a certain scale. A working spouse is letting people take risks earlier. In the B-Schools there is a growing number of students who start their own ventures. With the notion of lifelong employment being a thing of the past, a lot of people are finding themselves taking up entrepreneurship earlier than their plan.
The entrepreneurial mindset. Some dream of getting away from the soul-crushing work done in a cubicle as an unknown cog in a giant wheel. It could be the freedom that comes from being your own master and pursuing a dream to change the world or a part of it. And of course the possibility of becoming the next Gates, Zuckerberg or Thiel.
Entrepreneurs have to be able to solve problems and make the world more convenient. They have to factor in technological shifts, demographic trends and regulatory matters. The analog world also had entrepreneurs from Henry Ford to Jamshetji Tata. In that world, apart from enterprise, the other three factors of production — land, labor and capital — were difficult.
For the digital entrepreneur, ideas and innovation are at the core. Getting funding is a no-brainer if the idea is interesting. There is no barrier — not even age. Madison Robinson had the idea for light-up flip flops for kids when she was eight. Seven years later, she is a millionaire and her Fish Flops are being sold in national department stores like Nordstrom.
Invite, innovate and be interesting
Entrepreneurs have to learn to engage people beyond the enterprise at all stages. Oculus Rift, made possible by crowdfunding, was bought by Facebook for $2bn. In a hyper-connected world, everyone from the VC or potential employee is only a digital invitation away. The hyper-connected customer base is the best bet to take the message viral. The ability to build a network is an important skill.
People have to rethink and innovate around business models, marketing channels, and HR norms if they wish to scale up the way AirBnB, Dropbox and Facebook did. They followed ‘growth hacking’ which basically means the ability to quickly scale a product in creative ways. They have to solve big problems in a simple intuitive manner. Amazon moved quickly from selling books to now experimenting with delivering goods via drone. Innovation needs resilience. Agility and awareness of disruptive forces, quick decision making and ability to take risks can give the entrepreneur a huge head start.
Digital businesses are based on customer experience and innovation. Drucker defines entrepreneurship as using the tool of innovation to exploit change. When everyone with a smartphone is a media house, it is important to be interesting to stand out in the crowd. Richard Branson’s larger-than-life persona rubs off on the brand. Steve Jobs’ legendary skill in presenting ideas and obsession with design made Apple users evangelists. Apple’s announcements and product launches generate the kind of buzz no paid media has managed.
Digitization has redefined the possibilities of entrepreneurship. The barriers of the analog world are disappearing. Failure is getting to be less of a taboo — a sure sign that a society is ready to see the rise of entrepreneurs primed to make a mark in the universe.