by Greg Prestemon
How do you know a fad when you see one? It’s usually pretty self-evident:
- Rocks aren’t pets.
- It takes way too much hair gel to keep a Mohawk upright.
- Grunge music is actually really depressing.
- No man looks good in skinny jeans. (Especially me–it would be a really, really bad look.)
In other words, most fads are a bad idea from the beginning.
Over the last few years, entrepreneurship and startups might have struck some people as a fad. The startup culture has its own language, everyone seems to be doing it, and it involves a lot of young people drinking a lot of coffee in oversized cups.
But entrepreneurship is not a fad.
In fact, in 2017—and beyond—entrepreneurship will be more important than ever.
1. Young people and communities will use entrepreneurship to create a better future.
American manufacturing has not disappeared. The data shows American manufacturers are producing more than ever. What has changed is the nature of manufacturing employment.
Automation and technology mean factories are producing more than ever using fewer humans than ever before. While manufacturing remains an important employer base, it will never employ people at the scale it did 40 or 50 years ago.
Simply put, changes in technology mean there are fewer opportunities to work for other people, and that trend is only going to increase. That means starting your own business isn’t just the “cool” thing to do, or your best bet at making a fortune.
For many young people entrepreneurship will be their best bet to make a living—and a community’s best bet at having a stable employer base.
That might seem like a dire prediction, but traditionally communities might depend on one manufacturer to employ 1,000 people. If 200 companies employ an average of 5 people each, the same number of jobs are created, and those communities and the people who live in them won’t be devastated by the loss of one employer.
2. The barriers to entry for entrepreneurship are lower than ever.
I see this story in real time every day here in St. Charles County at the EDC Incubator and at OPO Startups. Many of the entrepreneurs in this community start with knowledge of a market based on actual experience in that market, a laptop, and little else.
If you want to manufacture cars, you need millions of dollars of investment, a big building, and a lot of resources. If you want to manufacture the software eliminating the need for a human being to drive that car, all you need are computers and talented coders.
In today’s world, all you might need to start your empire is a MacBook and a dream.
3. Lots of problems means lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs.
We have problems.
We might disagree on what those problems are and how to fix them, but we can all agree we have problems. But for every problem there is at least one solution, and often there is more than one solution.
Bringing those solutions to market is the job of the entrepreneur.
Every innovation in bioscience is a chance to make healthcare cheaper, more accessible, and more affordable.
Every new communication tool is an opportunity to create a better quality of life for the people using it.
This isn’t just idealism—I see real examples every day. One of OPO Startups earliest members, TenantLoop, created a platform that helps landlords and renters better communicate and solve little problems before they become big problems. With a growing number of millennials choosing to be renters, better communication between tenants and landlords is no small thing.
TenantLoop is one example of a startup (from right here in St. Charles County) created to solve an actual, real-world problem. TenantLoop will make life better for its customers and users, and the collective improvement in our lives brought to us by thousands of startups like TenantLoop is the key to solving our problems.
Entrepreneurs using creativity to solve important problems is not a fad.
Skinny Jeans will (thankfully) go the way of the pet rock.
But entrepreneurship is here to stay.
Greg Prestemon is President and CEO of the St. Charles County EDC Business and Community Partners.