The entrepreneurship experience has changed dramatically over the last couple decades. Social media and other technological innovations have made the startup sphere easier to enter than ever before, but finding success requires just as much hard work and dedication as ever.
In this article, we’ll discuss the many ways modern technology has changed the game for startups, and what it means to be an entrepreneur in today’s business landscape. Let’s dig in!
Common Characteristics of the Modern Entrepreneur
Of the many ways in which entrepreneurship has evolved over the years, there are three major aspects I want to discuss. The following characteristics of entrepreneurship have always been essential, but have become significantly amplified in the modern age.
Entrepreneurship has always been a huge risk -- there’s nothing “safe” about giving up a steady job to start your own business. But in many ways, entrepreneurship today is even more of a gamble than ever, simply because the business world moves so much faster than it used to.
It’s also worth noting that the number of American businesses that are less than a year old has dropped by nearly 50% over the last 40 years, a decline that has affected just about every industry -- even technology startups.
This decline can be partially explained by the fact that millennials are far more risk-averse than their boomer predecessors. For whatever reason, young people today are generally quite cautious, and tend to fear failure more than previous generations.
Obviously, creating value has always been essential to running a successful business, but it’s even more important for modern startups. New businesses need to generate value constantly and creatively. It isn’t enough to simply create a product or service that people want -- entrepreneurs today need to generate initial demand, then develop strategies for keeping that demand high.
No matter what your product or service is, if you’re successful in creating initial value, someone’s bound to copy you -- more than likely in the not-so-distant future. How you respond to being knocked off could make or break your business, and the #1 best way to respond is to make value creation your top priority. If you focus wholeheartedly on being the best at what you do, your business is bound to rise through the ranks.
There’s a dose of rebellion in every entrepreneur’s spirit, as departing from traditional means of employment has always been a bit of a shock to the social system. It’s even more true today, as legacy businesses gain an increasing amount of wealth and labor.
Doing something outside the box is often frowned upon, or at least met with a healthy amount of skepticism. But for many folks, the feeling of defiance is part of the allure of entrepreneurship to begin with. Rebellion is an undeniable aspect of the modern entrepreneur’s lifestyle -- we aren’t satisfied to simply fill a desk for someone else!
Technology Lowering Barriers
As I mentioned earlier, technological innovation has lowered many barriers and streamlined the entrepreneur experience in many ways. Let’s take a look at some aspects of launching and running a business that used to cost entrepreneurs an absurd amount of time and money, but have been simplified thanks to modern technology.
Software Makes It Simple
TEAM COMMUNICATION: Not too long ago, email was the cutting edge of workplace communication. Even so, in today’s startup environment, email is already being viewed as outdated and overly formal.
In the modern business sphere, services like Slack are becoming the preferred means of team communication. These programs allow you to group employees into multiple messaging teams, streamlining and simplifying the intra-office communication process.
The real-time nature of communication services like Slack means no more wasted time waiting for a response via email. Plus, they more accurately represent the way people communicate in person!
EMAIL MARKETING: Although email is outdated as a primary means of communication, it certainly still serves a purpose for entrepreneurs. MailChimp and similar programs produce automated email campaigns as a means of contacting potential or existing customers. Email marketing is a highly effective and inexpensive way to spread the word about your business, and now with services like MailChimp, it’s easier than ever.
WEBSITE BUILDERS: Gone are the days when an entrepreneur had to figure out how to design a website from scratch, or hire an expert to do it for them. Today, website builders like Wix and Weebly are becoming increasingly popular, making life significantly easier for business owners.
The top website building services have user-friendly tools to help you design and build a business website with ease, as well as advanced features like SEO optimization, eCommerce capabilities, and much more. These days, you don’t need a tech genius or a huge budget to get a professional business website.
VoIP PHONE SERVICES: The rise of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone services has brought about a level of flexibility we never got from landline phones or legacy telephone companies. Services like Nextiva and Grasshopper allow entrepreneurs to link their business phone numbers to their personal devices -- or any other phone for that matter!
The Capital Revolution
While the tried and true methods of acquiring capital still work just as well as they ever did, recent technological advancements have largely transformed the world of startup financing. In essence, new businesses today have far more funding opportunities available. Let’s take a look at the most popular options, and how they’ve emerged or evolved over time!
CROWDFUNDING: Before the rise of the internet, raising startup capital required a tremendous amount of in-person networking. Tracking down people with interest and convincing them to turn their interest into a financial investment was an unavoidable challenge for countless entrepreneurs.
Now, popular services like Indiegogo allow you to crowdsource equity funding for your startup, without any in-person networking whatsoever. Of course, you still have to put in a solid effort — many people underestimate the amount of work successful crowdfunding actually involves. That said, for many entrepreneurs, it’s undeniably easier and more efficient than the traditional approach.
BOOTSTRAPPING: The good old self-funding method is definitely still a viable option for modern startups, and in many ways it’s more feasible than ever. Believe it or not, over 90% of all startups today are funded by their owners!
Again, thanks to new technologies, the cost of starting a new business has never been lower. If you’ve got the resources, bootstrapping is a worthwhile option for funding your startup -- even if it means keeping your day job for another few months.
VENTURE CAPITAL: The good news is, when it comes to venture capital, there’s still lots of money out there. However, the bad news for startups is that these days, most of that money doesn’t go to seed funding.
Series C funding is now the popular choice for venture capitalists, as it’s seen as less risky to fund the scaling of a business rather than the initial launch. In short, venture capital is the most difficult type of startup funding to obtain -- especially for folks without successful business track records.
ANGEL INVESTORS/FRIENDS & FAMILY: In some ways, these avenues are the same as they have ever been. Just like in the 1990s, funding from angel investors or friends & family today are typically dependent on having established relationships with wealthy individuals.
Still, technology has managed to simplify things. Services like AngelList and Gust essentially function as social networking platforms for angels and entrepreneurs, helping both parties find the right match. As far as friends & family funding goes, using traditional social media platforms like Facebook is a super effective way to drum up interest.
INCUBATORS: While business incubators don’t actually offer startup funding, they can ease many financial concerns by providing vital resources (like office space or management training) for free or minimal cost. They’re often partnered with higher education institutions, community economic groups, or even major corporations.
Business incubators today offer tons of remote services, which means entrepreneurs no longer have to be in a specific physical location to access many of their services. Of course, there’s always more to be gained by being physically present -- including a massive networking potential!
BUSINESS LOANS: The world of small-business loans has changed significantly in recent years. Much like venture capital firms, banks today are no longer lending nearly as much money to startups as they are to established businesses.
The other major change is the rise of online lenders. Luckily, to obtain a loan from an online lender, you don’t necessarily need to be a particularly large or established company. However, most require that you’ve been in business for at least 6-24 months, and many have minimum annual revenue requirements.
BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS: Entrepreneurs today can get business credit cards using their personal credit and SSN. This is certainly risky for the entrepreneur, but it’s a convenient option for brand-new startups without any established credit history. Plus, cards like Capital One Spark Cash can be operated entirely digitally via Android and iOS apps.
As long as you exercise caution, a business credit card could be an incredibly positive and convenient game-changer for your startup.
Telecommuting: The New Normal
Arguably the most noticeable way in which technology has transformed the world of entrepreneurship is the rise of telecommuting. As high-speed internet has become commonplace in homes and cafés across the country, it’s seen as largely unnecessary for employers and employees alike to commute to a formal office each day. In the modern business landscape, the local coffee shop is the new office space!
FINANCIALLY SAVVY: Currently, over 25% of the U.S. workforce works remotely part-time, and 4 million of those folks do so at least 20 hours per week. This is great news for entrepreneurs looking to avoid renting physical office space!
In fact, both the employer and the employee stand to save a ton of money from telecommuting. A recent study showed that a business saves about $11,000 per year per remote employee, and that a remote worker saves approximately $4,000 per year (by not having to commute, buy work clothes, etc).
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: Telecommuting is known for being an equal-opportunity venture. About half of all telecommuters are over 45 years old, and over half are female. In other words, gender and age don’t seem to play as much of a role in remote work as in a physical office setting.
DECREASED RISK: Telecommuting can greatly decrease the financial risk and overhead that comes with entrepreneurship. These days, websites like Upwork and FlexJobs have made it super easy for entrepreneurs to find quality freelancers, and vice versa.
Back in the day, if you had more work than you could handle as a solopreneur, you would’ve had to formally hire an employee to pick up the slack -- making you responsible for providing a salary as well as health insurance and other benefits.
With freelance workers more available than ever, today’s entrepreneur can simply contract work out when needed. Freelancers don’t qualify for benefits and don’t need to be provided with 40-hour workweeks -- and while fair compensation is incredibly important, the fact is that providing benefits like these can be a crippling blow to a new entrepreneur’s finances.
As you can see, there are a great many ways that entrepreneurship has evolved over the last few decades. Technology has opened so many doors for new business owners that it’s truly easier than ever to become a successful entrepreneur. The access is there — all you need is the passion and dedication to make it a reality!