In recent years barriers to starting a business have lowered significantly. In a talk (see below) presented at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, author and serial entrepreneur, Steve Blank, dubbed this change the ‘democratisation of entrepreneurship’. In it he discusses the various factors that have lead to this change, such as the cost and speed of product development. If you’ve got an hour it’s very much worth watching, if not, the first ten minutes outline his observations on the trend.
Technology has had a massive part to play in these changes. The Internet has given us reach to greater markets and as incredible as it may seem it is still growing enormously. The ‘open source’ movement now applies to hardware as much software, making it easier for us to prototype physical products. The aid of fabrication labs and hacker-spaces such as Glasgow’s own Maklab mean you don’t need to own everything to realise your creations. Once you’ve finished product development, small-batch manufacturers like Ponoko.com, mean you don’t need to order your stock in the hundreds of thousands.
Aside from the entrepreneurship’s new ‘pull factor’, many of us are feeling a ‘push factor’ too. Since the economic crash of 2008 the numbers of self-employed have increased enormously.
“According to official figures, the number of self-employed people in the UK has risen 374,000 since the start of the financial crisis, reaching 4.2 million in April this year.” – BBC News
Questionable job security has shifted perspective on the risks of business start-up. Consider a recent graduate faced with a low or unpaid internship. A year spent on a venture (even if it fails) holds far more potential and reward.
With new means at our disposal many of us are aiming to carve out prosperous and resilient futures. A large part of that future prosperity depends on how we treat our planet. Unfortunately, environmental decision making has mostly been a top down affair. Much like starting a business was, involving the few rather than the many.
That’s where the Cleanweb movement comes in. We believe the democratisation of entrepreneurship, increases in technology and innovation can be applied to drive massive changes in sustainability. You don’t need to be a venture capitalist, the head of an NGO, or a hydrogen fuel cell specialist. Your idea to make the walk to work more fun (and drive business to a cafe along the way) could be in the hands of thousands of people. You’d be responsible for reducing greenhouse gases, improving air quality, and perhaps save the high street while you’re at it.
The best ideas are the simplest, whether it’s making continental rail travel easier, or helping people make decisions about which appliance to buy. We’ll be talking about this, Startup Weekend, and more at the next Cleanweb Meetup on 3rd October.