Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

    You want to change the world? Be an entrepreneur.

    By that I don’t mean start a business. Most people think being entrepreneurial means starting your own thing from scratch. You can very well be employed by someone but have that entrepreneurial mindset – the mindset that challenges the current state of the world or how things are done in your area of focus. Take for example employees for Tesla. They are not the founders of the business or entrepreneurs in the common definition, Elon Musk is, but when you look at why they stay at Tesla even though they are not paid as much as they can make somewhere else, you will understand my point. With the recent comments by Elon Musk that Tesla’s “rejects” are employed by Apple, the world got a glimpse into Tesla culture. This post explains it quite well. Elon hires people who want to change the world, who are not motivated by money but want to be part of something that can change humanity forever. If someone signs up for that and is not considered entrepreneurial, then I think it is high time we revise the definition. Of course, starting your own thing makes it increasingly easy to tackle challenges and for you to realise that superpower. That is what I’m going to focus on in this (long) post, discussing why entrepreneurship is the only superpower capable of changing this world for the better. Move over Superman!

    1. The strength of steel

     Andrew Carnegie is rightly claimed to be the founder of the American steel industry which in turn ushered in era of railroads and skyscrapers. Railroads were the veins the Industrial revolution dependent on. Imagine how crowded the world would have been if we didn’t have high rise buildings that can have 100+ families living on the same ground space. Carnegie’s business ventures help catapult the world forward.

    2. Let there be light!

    Thomas Edison lit up our homes, streets, cities, countries and the world with the first long-lasting practical electric light bulb. His ethics can be debatable but it is his entrepreneurial drive, and maybe greed, that allowed students to throw away their candles and study better at night. Now there are some Harvard students who invented the Soccket – a soccer ball that absorbs energy from its motion when people play with it and then can be used as a portable power source mostly to light up their homes. It’s an amazing invention especially for remote Africa and for them to distribute and scale it, they had to form a company or get into entrepreneurship.

    3. Computers and the clicks we can’t live without

    When Charles Babbage invented the first programmable computer, the world stopped being the same. Two centuries later, Bill Gates set out to create Windows. It might have started off very basic (pun intended) but his mission quickly became to “Put a computer in every home and every desk.” Now Windows is the operating system that not only runs your computer at home or what most, if not all, government departments use but even the ATMs where you go withdraw that money to buy your groceries. The impact of how his business venture changed the world is immeasurable. Steve Jobs helped create a company that time and time again brought revolutionary products which have changed our world. Remember how the first iPhone just changed the landscape? The iPod, iTunes, iPad even the computer mouse that you use to easily navigate the screen (he didn’t invent it but, because he was a fine-tuned entrepreneur, he saw its potential)

    4. New businesses result in job creation

    Most people are employed today because those companies they work for were, once upon a time and probably still are, entrepreneurial ventures. Governments all over the world are seeing the only way to really increase jobs is to create new businesses. Billions of dollars, incubators, accelerators the world over are being set aside just for this. South African government actually has set aside a fat budget called the Jobs Fund that is sponsoring incubators to help people start businesses to boost, as the name suggests, job creation. Changing the world? I think so.

    5. At the heart of entrepreneurship is a problem

    Businesses solve new problems. If you really want to make it, you have to solve a problem in a way that no one has done before. This means there is a part of maybe a large problem that is solved by the introduction of a new business. Besides solving new problems, some new businesses are allowing the world to reset its mistakes. For example, NextStep Recycling buys old laptops from people, they refurbish them and resell at a much affordable price. Their aim is to reduce the silicon waste that is increasing as the world is becoming more dependent on technology. Riding on the back of Moore’s Law, which many believe is slowly being surpassed, the penetration of electronics in our daily lives is increasing every single day and thus this waste problem. Some of the problems entrepreneurs are solving are too big to even comprehend. Try research how many startups are venturing into the green economy and how many governments have funds set aside just to support such businesses especially clean energy like solar or wind. On Facebook, I recently posted about a trillion dollar idea of finding a feasible way  to desalinate sea water. Issues like how to get clean water to rural areas  in South Africa are being solved by startups like Roundabout Outdoor, who invented the PlayPump Water System that pumps water as children play on it.

    6. Can you Google if I’m making sense?

    Everyone has, one point in time, Googled some research topic, used Wikipedia or went on Youtube for video tutorials on how to do something. All these were entrepreneurial ventures that are giving access to information at the click of a button. Information is power, as my next point will illustrate and if giving people quick access to it is not saving the world, then what is?

    7. Thanks LinkedIn, my post is available to anyone from anywhere

    Communication now is real-time. Alexander Graham Bell patented the first practical telephone. When his patent expired, over 6 000 companies rushed to get into the booming telephone business, even with its restrictions of mobility. Fast forward a century and we have cellphones that solve the mobility problem. Now a person can be reached practically anytime, anywhere. Social media then jumped onto the communication train just from a different angle and now the world seems so small and, as Facebook‘s mission says, more connected. Remember how the Arab Spring spread like wildfire because of social media. Some governments go to the extent of banning these services because they give people very quick access to information that can change the status quo (conspiracy theory?). Even recent fees protests in SA are testament of that. Just take a moment to understand that you were born before Google existed and you were already a well-functioning individual when Facebook became the behemoth it is today. Imagine how communication will change in the next 5 to 10 years. Ubiquitous holograms, anyone?

    8. When entrepreneurship and science collide

    Entrepreneurs are pushing science to new limits. Governments sent up the International Space Station but now it will probably start receiving supplies from a rocket sent up by a space transport company, SpaceX, founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. He is working on reusable rockets that, if successful, will drastically decrease the cost of travelling beyond Earth. He also founded Tesla, an electric car company which aims to decrease humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels. You see how that will also help improve the environment in the process, thus help alleviate another problem we have? Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, is disrupting the way medical tests are done. Other medical startups are looking at ways of using 3D printers to “print” human organs. One day you won’t have to add your name to a long list and wait for months or years for a heart transplant. A heart that fits your chest dimensions and blood type could be printed in a matter of hours or even minutes! Entrepreneurs are pushing that boundary of science and once they crack the formula for a successful business in this area, Rockerfeller might not need to have a 7th heart transplant! Google has a company, Calico, that is dedicated at solving the ageing problem. They want to figure out how to extend human lifespan past the measly 75 years average. Long live Google (another pun intended)!

    9. Watch as those reluctant financial services face disruption

    Entrepreneurs are creating cheaper, more efficient ways to offer financial services to the public. Take for example how Ovamba (disclosure – the founder, Marvin, is a great friend of mine) is changing how peer to peer lending is being done in Cameron. Look at how many businesses are dependent on M-Pesa in Kenya or just mobile money in general including EcoCash from Zimbabwe. Services like EcoCash are coming from a company whose starting roots were in telecoms but that’s even more reason why entrepreneurship will change the world – the core is to solve world problems and entrepreneurs never get tired of solving as many as they can.

    10. Fixing everything including government

    Entrepreneurs are fixing many of governments’ problems. They are providing free education and improving access to top quality instruction for those who could otherwise not have got it. Take IQmates as example (advert!), that is it’s core aim. Many social enterprises are addressing broad public needs that governments should address. VisionSpring is improving access to eyeglasses to those who need them. It is profit seeking but it is also solving a huge problem that the Department of Health struggles with. There is a Slovak architect, Michal Polacek, who is building homes for homeless people using billboards and using the adverts to fund the project. Many for-profit restaurants offer free food to homeless people from their excess. Vocational programs are improving skills of citizens for example Born To Code helps improve coding abilities of students in a way that a government funded traditional school is not able to do. Some companies are starting to employ people who come out of these bootcamps because they would have acquired the necessary skills for the job.

    There are many reasons why entrepreneurship can and will change the world. It’s also great to see just how many people are increasingly seeing it as a viable way to live a fulfilling life socially, emotionally and even financially. This is giving more brain resources to the challenges the world is facing.

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