Have you ever had a great business idea and wondered, could I build that? Or dreamed of starting something that makes a big impact on the world? Entrepreneurship is a lofty aspiration, but were living in a new era in which technology is making it easier than ever to start a business.This new access to entrepreneurship is unprecedented. In the not-so-distant past, starting a business required an often-prohibitive amount of capital and resources. You had to rent office space, buy everything to furnish it, and find initial employees who were willing to work like crazy to get your venture off the ground.
Today, thanks to the new roads in to resources that technology provides, people are starting businesses with nothing more than a laptop, an Internet connection, and an idea. The startups of today are more likely to resemble Facebooks founding story than Hewlett-Packards and thats primarily because of technology, and especially on-demand resources.
Software-as-a-Service (think Dropbox, Skype) and Platform-as-a-Service (think Amazon EC2) started the shift towards on-demand resources. But the on-demand movement is rapidly expanding, and today even includes talent.
Brandon Nolte is quietly building a startup from scratch, honing his entrepreneurial skills in suburban Philadelphia. While still working full time, the 26-year-old got the idea to build his own mobile app business, supported entirely by online resources. He started hiring a team of online freelancers to create apps (since he personally has no coding experience). Brandon just sent me a note that his business is doing so well that he was able to quit his full-time job two months ago. He mentioned the role online resources played, saying he was able to bootstrap my small idea and grow it little by little until it was a self-sufficient business.
Brandons not alone. People like him are building businesses everywhere today, not just in Silicon Valley. Theyre starting businesses in Wichita, Kansas (which Forbes actually just named as having the third-highest capacity for innovation in the U.S.), and Springfield, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee to name a few U.S. cities, and of course all over the world from Berlin and London to Sydney and Toronto.
Largely because they are fueling entrepreneurship worldwide, on-demand resources represent an increasingly larger part of the economy (for example, businesses have spent $1B hiring online freelancers on oDesk).
It may be easier than ever to tap into the resources you need to start a business, but the reality remains that starting a business is really hard work. Its never going to be an easy road. From my experience, keeping these things in mind can help:
- Ensure a product-market fit. Passion is a critical part of entrepreneurship. Building a business is difficult, and its nearly impossible if you dont feel strongly about what youre building. However, unless youre creating a non-profit or prioritizing social entrepreneurship, passion has to coexist in balance with potential profit. The best way to make sure passion doesnt obscure smart business strategy is to pay close attention to product-market fit do your homework to make sure customers will actually want your product or service and be willing to pay enough for it to represent a viable market for you.
- Get help youre going to need it. Just like raising a child, building a venture takes a village, so dont try to go it alone. Remember that your team is broader than just your direct team members; many people can provide counsel, from advisors and friends to board members and consultants. In addition, delegate whenever possible. You cant be expected to do it all, and you shouldnt no one person is good at everything, so leverage experts who bring skills that would have you pulling your hair out. This is often where startups benefit from hiring contractors, enabling the founding team to focus on critical projects best suited to their expertise.
- Keep an open mind. Not every startup has to look the same to be taken seriously. Want to forego seed funding and instead do Kickstarter? Go for it. Not sure you will ever need an office? Thats fine plenty of established companies dont even have them. Entrepreneurs are inherently innovative and disruptive, so dont be afraid to have your companys structure reflect that.
Do you think its easier to be entrepreneurial today? Any experiences you’d like to share on how youve used new technologies to build something?
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Gary Swart is the CEO of oDesk, the worlds largest online workplace.
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