The globalization of the economy and advancement of modern technologies have transformed the way we do business. Entrepreneurship is now happening at a scale we’ve never seen before in human history.
This is why I appreciate how Howard H. Stevenson, a Harvard professor, describes entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.
This definition captures the essence of being an entrepreneur in the 21st century. Entrepreneurs have big ideas and they aren’t afraid to take risks to realize their dreams.
To get a better idea of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in today’s landscape, I think it’s helpful to chart a timeline.
The rise of the global 24/7 operation
Also called the Digital Age and Computer Age, the Information Age stems from the invention of the personal computer. As the name suggests, the economy of the Information Age is built around the use of technology to spread information quickly and conveniently.
Without a doubt, the Information Age has shifted the way entrepreneurs approach business.
It began during the Industrial Revolution, where success for entrepreneurs meant using new technologies to optimize manufacturing processes. For example, in 1882, GE opened their first commercial power station in Manhattan. It provided power to only 59 people.
Think of how far entrepreneurship has come. While it once meant focusing on the elite few who could pay for it, now it means serving the masses with technology.
GE is on the forefront of making oil and gas smarter, cleaner, and more affordable, and technology is paving the way. Right now, they’re on the cutting edge of innovating Electric Submersible Pumps (ESPs), the technology responsible for 60% of the oil and gas we consume today. By creating everything from pumps to managing the integrity of ESP system insulation, GE is boosting efficiency across the energy market.
It’s not just corporations who are contributing. The technological boom of the Information Age has allowed smaller, nimbler companies to compete as well. With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), small businesses like Transform Software and Services are creating data visualization techniques to streamline engineering workflows while others, like Five Cubits, are building dynamic plant control systems and tracking software.
Fundamentally, entrepreneurs are doing the same thing they did a hundred years ago. However, today, they’re doing it digitally and on a much larger scale. The proliferation of data allows us to make our offerings to customers much more targeted. We have a greater understanding of where our customers are and what they need (and at what price they’ll pay).
I think it’s important to remember that entrepreneurial dreams are no longer limited to one town, province, or even country. Every entrepreneur’s market can potentially span the globe, and no one ever has to close their doors.
The power of the platform model
Technology is also paving the way for the platform business model. By combining the skills and resources of entrepreneurial minds spanning the globe, product ideas and industry-disrupting innovations are developing at an unprecedented rate.
One of the most dynamic examples of a growing platform model is crowdsourcing, in which a business or product facilitates the masses to produce a desired result. For instance, Draupner Energy, a Swedish Startup, is crowdsourcing funding for new oil and gas exploration, where the winning party receives $30,000.
The outreach and collaboration potential for the platform business model is limitless.
A focus on a better world
For entrepreneurs, part of the motivation has always been leaving a legacy. These days, it’s all about environmentalism. By leaving a positive imprint on the planet, entrepreneurs can be sure they left this world in a better shape than where they started.
Thanks to smarter fracking, for instance, carbon emissions are down to a 27-year low. Companies like Energy Recovery are helping businesses recover as much as 80% of their energy in acid gas or CO2 removal.
Also contributing to smarter and cleaner energy methods, engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have revolutionized a system that helps remove contaminants from the wastewater produced by the wastewater of oil and gas. This will make wastewater reusable and create a more efficient, cleaner oil, and gas ecosystem.
Not only is this great for the environment, it could save consumers and businesses huge amounts on their energy costs.
The tried and true path of entrepreneurship
Despite titanic shifts in the way we go about entrepreneurship, today’s entrepreneurial journey retains the same basic elements it always has. I think it can be easily described as a five-step process:
Thanks to ever-more-intimate technologies, like cloud collaboration and big data, the way we start and run businesses has been optimized. Our potential for explosive success is much greater than ever before, but the competition is also much stiffer.