…and most likely also a few light-years around
“Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking;
for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.”
Aristotle, “Nicomahean Ethics”
An Austrian guy with vast beard and a tongue-twisting surname is speaking in front of an auditorium so packed, that at least five rows have to stand on their feet:
When we started this all back in 2002, I have rented a single bedroom apartment in East London – with a large balcony. In the room, we installed several tables and put our computers on them and on the balcony we put tents. So this is how it all worked: we were coding in the room during the day and sleeping in tents on the balcony at night. It was kind of tough as you can imagine – especially during the winter time. We didn’t hear about things like co-workings, startup accelerators or incubators. Internet was slow as hell and venture capitalists were nothing but some exotic animals inhabiting the mysterious Silicon Valley.
The guy talking is Michael Breidenbrueker, the co-founder of last.fm, Britain’s first globally successful startup. The place is Google Campus. When last.fm was founded, it did not exist either.
Indeed, things did improve a bit over the last decade or so. There are dozens of startup accelerators and seed funds today in London alone – and hundreds of them worldwide. They provide a chunk of office space, good advice, and often some cash in exchange for nothing but a seemingly good idea. Services like hosting, transportation, and communication are becoming cheaper and better every next day. You don’t need to hire your own team anymore: the market is bursting with freelancers and small agencies capable of delivering products of decent quality for a fraction of cost.
At primary school, my classmates and myself used to throw chalk on each other during the breaks. Now, there is an app for that. There are apps also for project management, team communication, marketing, customer behaviour analysis, feedback, and so on. In fact, you can outsource or automate almost everything, from accounting to PR, and focus on the core value your business is adding. On top of that you have a huge online supermarket of ready-made frameworks, out-of-the-box’es, SaaS, APIs and SDKs, which allow to develop new products and throw them to the market in weeks! All this just wasn’t there a decade ago. These services themselves emerged as startups. The more successful startups are there – the easier it becomes to start your own.
All the above makes the following fundamental statement true:
Never before in the history of humankind it was so easy, so cheap, and so much fun to start your own enterprise.
As a result, the world is exploding with individual enterprises. According to World Startup Report, there were already over 140,000 startups worldwide at the beginning of 2014 . There is every reason to think that this number has only grown ever since.
Quantity does convert to quality. Fortune in its latest report has discovered an 80-strong herd of unicorns on this planet. This is a Silicon Valley buzzword for startups valued over a billion USD. Five years ago there were only eight of them around.
In the core, there is one important and largely overlooked tendency. More and more startup founders come from a non-tech background. What have once been a stonewalled realm of brilliant engineers and all-mighty angel investors now is an open playing field for everyone who has a good idea, understands the market and has guts to give it a shot.
Main reason for this is that technical innovation does no longer play a key role in a startup. A deep understanding of your target audience’s needs and behaviour has taken over its place.
This army of non-techies advance traditional industries to another level through marrying their expertise in the particular field with technical skills of developers and designers. The potential for innovation this way becomes unlimited. Anything can be disrupted now. And it is: AirBnB challenges the millennia-old hotel industry, Homejoy revolutionises home cleaning, Uber makes taxi drivers going on strikes worldwide. But they cannot stop the progress. No one ever could. The progress is now not only moving much faster, it is also spreading to the sides – like a river that has entered a broad valley and is now flooding over it, covering all the visible space to the horizon.
This massive individual entrepreneurship movement changes everything. But more important than change in the industries and markets is the enhancement of the choices available to every individual. Own business is no longer an exclusive privilege of the rich, the lucky, or the insane. The price of freedom has become reasonable at last. We no longer need to score points in our CV, aiming to sell ourselves for more money to another big employer. We no longer need to calculate our pension plans, social packages, exercise loyalty to the boss and check our wage against the inflation rate.
Instead we can go straight to building our dream.
This is nothing but an ultimate freedom of a human being – in its absolute, Hegelian sense. This is also the next, and probably final step in the historical development of human society. As Nobel laureate Amartya Sen put it:
“Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are also among its principal means.”
That is why we at YouTeam believe that the raise of individual startups is the most important process taking place in the 21st century. It stands in the same row with enlightenment, industrial revolution, and victory of capitalism over communism. Being part of this process means nothing less than turning the gears of history with your own hands.