Editor's Note: This article is part of a feature exploring what the future holds for the next generation of startups.
One of the easiest ways to look foolish is to start making predictions about the future--just ask those who said online shopping was a passing fad. And before the iPhone launched eight years ago, how many (besides maybe Steve Jobs) would have guessed that mobile apps would become a $35 billion industry?
But when Steve Case, Peter Diamandis, Esther Dyson, and other forward thinkers offer their thoughts about the future of entrepreneurship, you'd be a fool not to listen. Among their predictions: We'll see even grander and more ambitious ventures from entrepreneurs in the coming years. (And, presumably, fewer Kickstarter campaigns of the making-potato-salad ilk.) Some of their other projections feel less futuristic and more like a return to some of the practices (promoting strong values and building smart partnerships) that have made companies great in the past.
And whether or not you agree with these visions, there's one sure way to know what's coming down the pike. As management guru Peter Drucker liked to say, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."
When serial entrepreneur and XPrize founder Peter Diamandis talks about what's in store for tomorrow's leaders, the conversation verges on ecstatic. Can you blame him? Through his own initiatives, he's working to prolong human life (Human Longevity), commercialize space flight (Space Adventures), and mine asteroids (Planetary Resources). Diamandis, whose new book, Bold, hits stores in February, encourages entrepreneurs to aim high.
How do you expect entrepreneurship to change over the next decade?
The ability to build a business has gotten easier and cheaper. And the ability to create a product or service and quickly scale it to a million--or a billion--consumers is something that's possible today that wasn't possible even a decade ago. Today, entrepreneurs have access to technologies that were once available only to large organizations or governments. Plus, entrepreneurs now have access to a huge amount of capital--from VCs and the angel community as well as crowdfunding, which is expected to reach $15 billion in 2015. I think we're going to see an explosion in entrepreneurship, an explosion in innovation. That, to me, is why this next decade is extraordinarily exciting.
What are the biggest future challenges founders will face?
Regulation. Entrepreneurs are going to want to run faster than regulators will be willing to allow them.
When entrepreneurs find ways to do things much cheaper and faster, that gets traditional businesses up in arms, so they work with government to put up roadblocks. The large companies don't know how to handle it--the rate of change is so fast.
Look at Tesla. It came out of nowhere and created the safest car in America--or the world, probably. We're going to see this with robotics, medicine, education, and artificial intelligence. A lot of change is coming.
Will Silicon Valley continue to be a dominant force in the future?
Yes, but I think other places will begin to catch up. Countries around the world want to replicate what we have. Some of these smaller countries with more agile governments--the Netherlands, Israel, Singapore--will have an advantage, because regulation is going to start to become a hindrance for innovation. Innovation at a large scale means that you're eroding some of the existing work forces and large businesses that are the tax base. And often, a government's first reaction to that is to put up regulatory barriers.
So, for example, as autonomous cars come on the road, it's going to create a lot of downstream issues. Maybe we won't need to produce as many cars, because people won't own cars anymore--they'll own access to a car. And we won't have to build as many roads, because autonomous cars are more efficient. So we won't have as much construction equipment. We won't need parking garages or taxi drivers. A single technology can disrupt all of these secondary businesses. You end up with this domino effect.
And some countries say stop. Other countries embrace it. We want to become a place where this innovation is tried, because technologies can move in a heartbeat. The U.S. was No. 1 in stem cell science until the last Bush administration restricted federal funding. All that meant was that the work moved offshore.
What's your advice to future entrepreneurs?
First, do what you're passionate about, because that's when you do your best work. Second, attack the world's biggest problems. The grand challenges are the biggest business opportunities. The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people. It's really about being bold in your mindset. Entrepreneurs have the ability to take risks, to iterate, to fail often and early. Large companies can't do that. They are scared to do that. That's the advantage entrepreneurs have.