The sluggish economy has prompted many to consider starting their own businesses. But too often, people are still held back by myths about who’s cut out to be an entrepreneur, says Candida Brush, Chair of the Entrepreneurship Division at Babson College and Director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. “If you pick up almost any magazine, the hero is usually a white male figure: you’re either born Bill Gates or you’re not, and that’s off-putting” to many would-be entrepreneurs. But entrepreneurship can be learned by anyone, she says, and people need to recognize that “you don’t have to do it all by yourself.” Just as Bill Gates had Paul Allen, “Businesses are more successful when they’re started by teams of two or three people. Five people is too many, and one is not enough.”
If you’re considering starting your own business – or simply taking a more entrepreneurial approach to your career and life – Brush has identified several trends that may open up new possibilities. Here are three ways entrepreneurship is changing for the better.
It’s Becoming More Global. Entrepreneurship can be a powerful driver of job creation, innovation, and trade, says Brush – and other countries are increasingly tapping its potential. “The Turkish government is now giving grants to entrepreneurs to start businesses,” she says, and “Ireland has had a policy to encourage entrepreneurship for the past 10 years.” Scotland, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil, and Chile are also making an entrepreneurial push. That means more opportunity and economic activity – and in a globalized society, the benefits redound to all of us.
It’s Opening Up for Women. The venture capital industry is notoriously devoid of women, and with its emphasis on funding serial entrepreneurs, it can be hard for outsiders to break into the club. “If we go back to 1995-1999, when the VC industry was at its peak, during that period of time only 6% of businesses funded by VCs had women on the management team,” says Brush. But these days, venture capital isn’t the only game in town. The rise of angel investing – not to mention crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter – has opened up funding opportunities for women. “Since the early 2000s, the development of angel groups has led to more funding of women-owned businesses, and more participation on the investor side by females,” she says. Though angel investors fund at lower levels – an average of $500,000 to $2 million, compared to a typical VC investment of $10-12 million – they also do more deals, and now give out as much money as VC firms. More opportunities for women means more opportunity for great ideas to get funded.
It’s Merged with Design Thinking. “I believe entrepreneurship is a method, a set of skills – and it’s learnable,” says Brush. So how do you teach it? Historically, it was through case studies or crunching numbers to develop predictive models. While that’s still necessary, she says, a complementary, action-based approach has also taken hold. “Instead of ‘I’m going to analyze the market and pick two alternatives and then execute,’ there’s a different approach. You might start with: Who am I? What are my capabilities? What do I enjoy doing? Based on that, you can start to think about what are some possibilities I might approach.” Another key feature is the introduction of ‘design thinking’ as a way to generate ideas: “You could go to an airport and watch people for four days, and you’d come up with lots of different opportunities just watching people in that space. You can’t validate that without some predictive, analytic work, so it’s a combination.” The result is an on-the-ground approach that’s likely to generate genuinely new insights.
Opening up entrepreneurship – to women, to global citizens, and to new ideas and ways of solving problems – is likely to make it even more central to future economic progress. What do you see on the horizon for entrepreneurship worldwide?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on January 29, 2013.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.