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What a time to be alive.
We’re truly living in the golden age of entrepreneurship.
Around the world, there is a distinct upward trend of people from all walks of life starting their own businesses and trying their hands at entrepreneurship. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, there are about 400 million active entrepreneurs around the world.
I’m sure all of you reading this will know at least a friend or two starting their own business, and there’s a very good chance that many of you are that friend!
It’s precisely this ever-growing fervor for ditching the 9-to-5 and building something new that inspired our own founder Nathan to launch Foundr, an entire business devoted to helping the latest generation of entrepreneurs with our content, community, and online courses.
Foundr is currently wrapping up its very first print publication, a beautiful, curated collection of the best wisdom we’ve gathered up over the past few years. We’re really proud of it, and looking over its contents, it struck us just what a truly incredible time it is to start your own business.
It got me thinking about exactly what it is in our current environment—what are the key factors behind this unprecedented rise of entrepreneurs, and how can we use them to our best advantage? I think the following makes a pretty strong case that there’s never been a better time in history to be an entrepreneur.
It’s easier than ever to learn
Historically speaking, the greatest barrier for any would-be entrepreneur was a lack of knowledge.
If you wanted to start your own business a mere 25 years ago, chances are you’d either need to have some kind of family resources or other existing connections, hire consultants, go to business school, or spend years in a particular industry. It didn’t matter if you had a groundbreaking idea, if you didn’t even know the basics like how to write up a business plan, or already have some deep knowledge of your industry, you were out of luck.
Contrast that with the wealth of information that’s available today.
With a few taps of a keyboard, you are literally half a second away from learning everything you need to know about starting your own business. Helping other businesses get started has become an industry of its own, and there are endless resources out there to turn to.
And with the development of new business models like the freemium approach, content marketing, and even personal blogging, so much of that information is completely free.
At Foundr alone, we offer a ton of free, in-depth information on how to create the perfect founding team, a comprehensive guide on all the different types of business models out there, and so much more.
Even finding and connecting with mentors who are willing to share their experience and knowledge is now easier than ever. You can join formal mentorship programs like Coach.me and The Muse and get matched up with a personalized mentor for a fee. But it’s also just easier to make connections with heroes and mentors. We could never have reached out and interviewed all of the amazing people we have back when the world wasn’t so amazingly well connected.
That’s not to mention the fact that there has been explosive growth in startup incubators and accelerators in the past five years. Programs dedicated to helping the next generation of startups by providing them the mentorship and guidance they desperately need. In the UK, for example, there has been a 110% increase of incubators since 2011.
There are even plenty of free courses out there for anyone wanting to learn more about starting their own business.
Unfortunately, though, while information is easier to access than ever, there is also the unintended side effect of oversaturation, due to the sheer volume of information out there. Aspiring entrepreneurs can find themselves overwhelmed and spending countless hours trawling through it all trying to find that one piece knowledge that applies to them.
It’s a task in and of itself trying to filter out the gold from the white noise.
Foundr has always prided itself on quality over quantity, finding the very best information for our community, and the new book we’re preparing to release is a prime example that pulls the best of what we’ve tracked down into one place. We distilled more than three years spent interviewing over 100 of the best entrepreneurs in the world to create Foundr Version 1.0. We’ve woven together the best and the most actionable tips, tactics, and strategies shared with us by game-changing entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Tim Ferriss and compiled it all in one book.
The book walks through every stage of building a business. Advice on finding your passion, influencer marketing advice from Michelle Phan, and tips on improving your financial literacy from Daymond John can all be found in Foundr Version 1.0.
We’re clearly pretty excited about the latest resource we’re offering, but it’s really just one of so many great places to educate yourself about entrepreneurship, and we’re always looking for more to pass along here. It isn’t difficult to see why more and more people are turning toward entrepreneurship when everything they need to learn can be found one click away.
Anyone can do it
These days, literally anyone can be an entrepreneur provided that they have a great idea, and are willing to hustle away at it.
It’s heartening to see how the once middle-class, male-dominated startup space is quickly filling with people from all demographics and backgrounds. According to the 2012 US Census, 36% of all businesses are owned by women, a 30% increase since 2007. We still have a long way to go, but a lot of the gatekeepers have been bypassed, providing new opportunities.
Entrepreneurship is also no longer limited to the stereotype of the brash young millennial, with the number of Baby Boomers getting in on the action, as 23% of all entrepreneurs are older than 55. Even children as young as 9 are become successful entrepreneurs in their own right. The vast array of avenues for communication and networking have also opened up the space to all types of personalities, not just silver-tongued extroverts.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this age of entrepreneurship is the fact that virtually anyone can start their own business. The democratization of technology, the freedom to work from anywhere, and creative business models and payment methods have knocked down many walls that have traditionally kept people from becoming entrepreneurs.
With the rapid development of technology, there are now multiple tools and resources that any entrepreneur can immediately use to get started. Business services and tools that were once cost-prohibitive when they were offered by a relatively small number of companies and consultants are now much more scalable and affordable to the average entrepreneur.
Just for one example, while in the old days, developing an e-commerce website could cost upwards of half a million dollars, you can now use platforms like Squarespace, WordPress, and Joomla to quickly create a gorgeous website for cheap.
New technologies have also made it so that the operating costs of running a business have come down as well. No longer do you have to rent an office space or hire full-time employees in order to build a business.
These days, you can use platforms like Upwork, and Speedlancer to hire freelancers from around the globe. Everything from a simple virtual assistant to a specialist graphic designer are now within range and easily manageable through tools like Skype and Slack. Many businesses either never establish a physical office, or don’t do so until years after launching.
Simply put, starting a business has become easier than ever.
Take Foundr for example. When it first started over three years ago, it was nothing more than a computer on Nathan’s lap. He leveraged technology and taught himself wherever he could, hired contractors when he couldn’t, and within a year left his full-time job to work on Foundr 100%.
Even if you’re not a fan of bootstrapping, funding has also become more accessible.
The amount of funding available for startups is now higher than ever, according to a 2014 report by CB Insights, which reported $47.3 billion invested in startups that year alone.
This isn’t even mentioning the fact that modern day entrepreneurs are no longer limited to approaching venture capitalists and angel investors in order to secure funding for their startup.
Frustrated by the usual funding channels? Couldn’t get on SharkTank? Who needs them? Heck you don’t even need a bank. Crowdfunding has revolutionized the way entrepreneurs can secure funding for their startups. If you have a great pitch, your target market itself can be your funder. According to one report, the global crowdfunding industry grew by 167% in 2014 to reach $16.2 billion, and then doubled in 2015 to hit $34.4 billion.
Crowdfunding platforms are increasingly proving to be both a viable way to access funds to start a business and develop a product, while validating their idea at the same time.
The knowledge and resources are all there, but what’s even more compelling about the age of entrepreneurship is the reason why people are leaving the traditional work force and striking out on their own.
A better way to live … and a better world
There’s a variety of motivations behind the decision to take the plunge into the entrepreneurial pool. But increasingly, we’re seeing young adults striking a new path that’s quite different from the 20th century ideals of landing a 9-to-5, saving up money, and retiring to the golf course.
For one, following the Global Financial Crisis and the massive layoffs and lost homes and retirement funds in its wake, there’s a heightened distrust of traditional corporate jobs. Several polls have found that the younger generation has a profound lack of trust in traditional institutions, everything from banks to big business.
There’s also the fact that the traditional work environment is increasingly perceived to be too confining and restrictive. Employee satisfaction surveys are in the gutter, with one Gallup study finding less than a third of employees in the United States are “engaged” at the office. That’s right, 70% of workers are miserable in their jobs. Even with the (dubious) promise of a steady, long-term paycheck, people are finding work stifling and unengaging.
It’s no wonder companies are scrambling to retain workers.
But before you go thinking the up-and-coming workforce is a bunch of selfish, lazy cynics, take a look at what data shows they do want.
Surveys have found that millennials, who will make up 75% of the workforce in 2025, are largely motivated by a desire to make the world a better place. More than half would take a pay cut if their work better matched their values, and 90% want to use their skills for good.
There’s more: 75% feel businesses are focused on their own agendas instead of improving society, and 28% feel their employers aren’t making full use of their skills. One survey found that among the best and brightest 15-27 year olds, the most attractive employers were in the high tech sector, and just below that category were employers with a mission to change the world for the better.
The rising workforce isn’t just disenchanted with traditional jobs. They want to do something that will push their skills to the limit, and change the world.
It’s precisely these kinds of values and attitudes that have contributed to the golden age of entrepreneurship. We want more out of work.
Along those lines, one fascinating component of the rise of entrepreneurship is the trend of social entrepreneurship, or impact entrepreneurship. More than ever, today’s entrepreneurs are looking to create businesses that make a positive impact.
We’re seeing a blurring of the lines between governments, nonprofits, and businesses when it comes providing social good. It’s no longer considered good enough for a corporation to make as much money as possible, even leading to new business designations like the B Corp.
That’s not to say that entrepreneurs don’t care at all about making money. Quite the contrary. But they also want to be agents of change. More and more, entrepreneurs are taking on global issues like poverty, environment, and global health, by bringing their own unique brand of innovation into these sectors.
“Millennials also want more than a paycheck; they want meaningful work. If you talk to young startup founders, many aren’t just looking to cash in, they are looking to make an impact and to solve problems. It’s an optimistic outlook.” – Barbara Hou, author of Startups Demystified.
Tom’s Shoes promotes a unique “Buy One, Give One” approach where, for every pair of shoes sold, a pair is given to a child in need
Just take a look a Paul Dunn the co-founder of B1G1, Buy 1 Give 1, a membership program where small- to medium-sized businesses can register in order to connect with various other charitable programs. Through B1G1 these businesses are given the opportunity to donate to any of B1G1’s partner charities in a quick and effective manner.
Or Leila Janah, the founder of Sama Group, a company whose aim is to reduce global poverty by giving people meaningful digital work. Janah has innovated the typical freelance model by breaking down complex data projects into small tasks that can be completed by people with only a few weeks of training.
Sama Group then outsources these tasks to their centers, which are located in some of the most impoverished areas in the world, and empower the local population through gainful employment. This helps both companies who need large data tasks to be completed and provides typically impoverished people a chance to work.
Prominent social entrepreneur Leila Janah with one of her Samasource workers
What’s fantastic about the age of entrepreneurship is that not only is it giving people the power to change their own lives, but it also equips them with the tools needed to create meaningful change as well.
As the rise of entrepreneurship has taken place, so too has public interest.
Startup moguls are now treated like rockstars whose names are just as recognizable as your typical A-list celebrity. These days everyone knows who Mark Zuckerberg is. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are now household names. Richard Branson is still making headlines to this day.
The word entrepreneurship is now synonymous with words like innovator, pioneer, and trailblazer.
But at the end of the day, who’s to say if this truly is the golden age of entrepreneurship?
All I can say is that there never has been a time when, as a society, we’ve looked at CEOs and entrepreneurs as idols or heroes. It’s a breath of fresh air and it can only signal good times to come for not only today’s generation of entrepreneurs, but the next wave too.
What do you think? Are we living in the golden age of entrepreneurship? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below!