To all the college students out there, you’re about to read a sentence that’s been written, orated, tweeted, posted, shared, and blogged about an innumerable amount of times. But you have to stick with me on this and read it anyway. Are you ready?
There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.
There are 4 main reasons why:
- Low barriers of entry to digital work
- It’s easier than ever before to bootstrap, crowdfund, and gain investment
- There is a seemingly endless amount of help available at your fingertips
- A global marketplace
1. Low barriers of entry to digital work
This one’s important. If you’re like most college graduates, you’ll have left school with a bit of debt to your name. Seventy percent of 2014’s graduating class left school nearly $33,000 in debt, so it’s clear that money isn’t exactly free-flowing. While a lack of capital still poses a problem for entrepreneurs, there are a number of services, apps, and general technologies that allow for you to drastically minimize your costs, or even completely nullify them. Take these for example:
- Cloud Computing platforms, like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, which allow for a simple way to access files, servers, databases, etc., over the Internet. They’re relatively cheap, with no large upfront investments or hardware management costs.
- Website services like Wix and Squarespace, which allow for individuals and businesses to create and maintain websites and blogs at a low cost. For instance, Squarespace’s premier package offers, among other features, unlimited pages, stories and bandwidth, fully integrated E-commerce, label printing, and real-time carrier shipping… all for $24/month.
- The ability to advertise for free on social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. As long as you know what you’re doing (if you don’t, there are a number of reputable blogs out there), you can begin building your company’s brand identity without even spending a dime. Only if you enter into an advertising plan with a sales rep would you end up spending any money.
- (Applies to brick-and-mortar companies) Point-of-sale options such as Square, ShopKeep, and PayPal, which rid the need for traditional cash registers and payment-processing machines. ShopKeep even allows you to track and manage stock levels, monitor workers’ hours, and see real-time analytics.
- Digitizing apps like TurboScan and Genius Scan, which allow for you to convert images of your files and documents into PDFs.
- Organization services like Dropbox, which allow you to securely organize, store, sync, and share files across a number of apps and devices.
- FedEx Office, which makes it a cinch to send files, documents and photos to your nearest FedEx location to be printed.
- Accounting services sites, like FreshBooks and Xero, which offer online accounting, automatic bank reconciliation, payroll services, etc.
2. It’s easier than ever before to bootstrap, crowdfund, and raise money
As I mentioned before, it’s becoming less costly to start a business in the digital world. But there will always be some industries that require a bit of capital, such as manufacturing. No worries, though! Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter,GoFundMe, and Indiegogo, and investing sites like AngelList and Gust are available for you to use.
For crowdfunding, the premise is simple: you create a campaign and describe in detail your company’s relevant information:
- Your goal
- How you will achieve your goal
- How the funds will be used
- Your qualifications
- Your team
- How far along your project is
If people like the project and have the means to support you, they can pledge X dollar amount toward your cause in exchange for perks, such as the product, promotional material, etc. (GoFundMe does not require that you provide a perk in exchange for financial support). Then, once funding goal/deadline is reached, you pay a processing fee to the site and begin funding your business. Famous projects to go through the crowdfunding process are the COOLEST cooler, which had 62,642 backers pledge a total of $13.2 million, Exploding Kittens, and Oculus Rift.
Investing sites are a bit different. While you still upload a pitch video and describe your team, rather than having people pledge X dollars for a perk, you instead connect with interested and accredited investors. The site simply acts as a middleman by bringing together everything entrepreneurs and investors need to connect.
This is all a long way of saying that ample funding dollars are out there and available. Billions of dollars have pledged and invested through sites like Kickstarter ($1.5 billion) and Gust ($1.8 billion). Not to mention, VC funding is the most it’s been in over decade ($47.3 billion in 2014 vs. $29.4 billion in 2013).
3. A seemingly endless amount of information at your fingertips
If you don’t know how to do something and want to learn, there are a number of resources readily available out there that you can turn to. You can:
- Conduct research through sites like SBA.gov and databases like Business Source Premier
- Learn from today’s leading minds by watching TED Talks
- Expand your expertise by taking free online courses from schools like Stanford, Princeton, and Yale
Just be careful, though. With all this information, you may end up suffering from information overload, so it’s important to understand how to handle it.
4. A global marketplace
This one’s rather obvious, but is worth mentioning. Today’s entrepreneurs are not restricted by their geographic location. Even the smallest mom and pop shops have the ability and means to be a global company by having an online presence. So no matter how niche your market, you can access your customers and they can access you through social media and the Internet.