Faithful readers of my column at USA Today (thank you very much!) know that every year I post a two-part Top Trends in Small Business piece. It is always interesting to see what is coming down the pike, and it is equally interesting to notice how much, and how little, the list changes every year.
Of course, the latest tech gadgets and tools (smart phones, apps, the cloud, etc.) always make it on. Sometimes it’s the economy that is the biggest trend (hello 2008), and sometimes things make the list and never show up again, for instance, “Global warming may put you out of business” (2007.) OK, we can’t get them all right.
I mention all of this because it occurs to me that the biggest trend of them all in the past decade, the most significant thing to come along in a long time, has never actually made it into my trends column. And what is that?
Not only did communism fall, but the advent of the computer age, the Internet, e-commerce, mobile phones, social media, and all the rest now means that anyone, anywhere can become an entrepreneur. And they are. From China to Russia to the U.S. and beyond, people are, in ever increasing numbers, taking up the entrepreneurial banner.
Entrepreneurship is about creating something, not destroying anything…
This is no small thing, indeed it is a big thing, the biggest thing. At a time when the world seems to be cracking into ever more smaller groups demanding their rights, when global warming is a real threat, when violence seems to be on a forward march, entrepreneurship offers an antidote. Entrepreneurship is about creating something, not destroying anything. It is about using creativity and teamwork and intelligence to solve problems. It forges bonds and moves us forward.
Entrepreneurs large and small, green entrepreneurs, tech entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, micro entrepreneurs, political entrepreneurs, and many others are all changing the shape of the planet, radically, and for the better.
At the World Entrepreneurship Forum, of which I sit on the advisory board, we say, “Entrepreneurs are the creators of wealth and social justice.” This moniker may be surprising to some, and in fact it was to me when I first heard it; that ‘social justice’ part seemingly not to fit. But what I have learned is that my old definition of entrepreneurship was far too narrow. My dad taught me that an entrepreneur is someone willing to “take a risk with money to make money.”
Today, entrepreneurship is so much more than that. It is a mindset. It is a skillset. It is a way of looking at the world, seeing problems, creating teams, finding solutions, and solving problems for mutual benefit, whether that means building a better mousetrap, alleviating a social problem, or overthrowing a dictator.
To document all of these changes and to fully examine the extent of this global entrepreneurial phenomenon, I teamed up with several other members of the World Entrepreneurship Forum this past year to examine and explain this revolution in detail. The result is a new book, just published, called Planet Entrepreneur.
Nicholas Shea details how, while a part of the startup community at Stanford, he received a call from his home in Chile. The country had just experienced an 8.2 earthquake and was devastated. Could he help?
Nico flew back to Chile with an audacious plan: To create a South American version of the Silicon Valley – an entrepreneurial incubation system that would attract and reward entrepreneurs who would be willing to go to Chile to start their businesses. Each one would get technical assistance, and a $40,000 startup grant.
The result, Startup Chile, has been wildly successful.
Or how about Jack Sim? A very successful Singaporean entrepreneur, Jack was able to retire at age 40. But he is not the retiring type. Jack realized that there is a huge need at the “Bottom of the Pyramid” – the billions of people who live without proper sanitation. So Jack, seeing this problem, took it upon himself to work to solve it (as entrepreneurs are wont to do.) Now widely known as Mr. Toilet, he uses entrepreneurial skills and models to bring sanitation to the third-world. World Toilet Day is celebrated by over 1 billion people annually now.
Baybars Altuntas is a shark on the Turkish version of the hit TV show Shark Tank. His chapter, “Hello Entrepreneurs, Goodbye Borders” is the best advice I have ever read for someone who is looking for angel investments for their business.
And yes, I wrote a few chapters too – on Intrapreneurship, and, of course, the Self-Employed Entrepreneur.
So my oversight in my column has been corrected, big time. The global entrepreneurial revolution is here to stay, and it is probably something of which you want to be a part. Why?
Because the biggest trend of them all is that we all now live on Planet Entrepreneur.