After years of launching companies, I've often wondered how today's entrepreneurs create, structure, and grow a small business. Finally, I took a 16-month tour to find out.
Last week I attended the G20 entrepreneurship summit in Moscow, where I gave a keynote talk and met with entrepreneurs from 30 different countries. The results were the same whether I was in Rio, Dubai, or Lima, or Kuala Lumpur.
Social media, combined with the explosive growth of online education, has created a real opportunity. For perhaps the first time ever, industrious citizens in almost every nation can be your competitor or business partner.
Take a young man I met in Senegal launching an online payment system. When I asked how he learned what he knew, he simply replied, "Stanford." He had never left Senegal, so when I asked how this was possible, he replied “Coursera," the free online university course site. When he wasn't working in the fields, he took free classes on the Internet. He showed me his plan and I was impressed. “TED videos,” he said. “I stay up late and watch them all."
A few years ago, this young man could never have dreamed of leaving the agricultural job his family members have been doing for generations. Today, though, he is not only building a world-class online business, but may show up in your market and compete aggressively. He is smart and he is hungry. And there are thousands more like him.
But this isn't just a threat.
You are a small business owner. You want to grow. You don’t have connections in global markets, but they do. This new generation of online-educated entrepreneurs can bring your product or service to their market much faster and more effectively than you can.
So what should you do?
Find them. Employ them. And partner with them.
I have never been more excited about the state of entrepreneurship worldwide. Small business is the answer to global unemployment. And now we have a global army of ambitious entrepreneurs and small business owners who are attacking the problem from all sides.