A Nation of Entrepreneurs

4/13/2005 10:50:14 PM

A Nation of Entrepreneurs

Paul Graham states his belief that there could be ten times more startups than they currently are.

If I were worth hundreds of millions of dollars and had a private foundation, I would pour my money into initiatives and programs that would spurred entrepreneurship. If I were a governor or a president, I would push for programs and legislation that would do the same. I guess that it is the role of the Small Business Administration, but my goals would be much more ambitious.

I am not fond of transfers, entitlements, and redistribution of wealth but prefer, instead, structural solutions that are self-supporting over time. Carnegie poured money into building libraries and, in the process, educating the public. Gates focuses has a similar focus on improving education, bridging the technology gap, and advancing world health.

I feel that entrepreneurship is deeply woven in the fabric of America and that the country owes a lot of its growth, success and technological leadership to entrepreneurship. Embedded in our constitution are strong notions of private property as well as congressional protection for intellectual property (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8). I think Europe is more socialistic, because it emerged from a feudalistic society, whereas America was founded by a nation of pioneers in an unbounded frontier and also made greater use of slave labor.

I suspect that over a century ago that a much greater percentage of Americans were actually entrepreneurs than today, before the rise of urban life and large corporations. However, in recent times due to advances in information technology and the Web, it is easier than ever to start one’s own company. Bill Gates remarked that he is jealous of the relative ease of starting of a company today compared to the environment of the mid-70s when Microsoft was founded.

There is so much infrastructure available right now. I am currently a MicroISV operation, but it is easy for me to create a virtual corporation. I currently license royalty-free linguistic data from universities and software libraries from component vendors like SyncFusion. I can get some design work at sites like GlyFX or outsource some of my marketing efforts at Shareware Promotions. There are sites that help me with just about everything from documentation, software registration, customer support, and so on.

This infrastructure is not just limited to the digital world. In the past thirty years, we have all sorts of support centers for small businesses like Kinko’s, Fedex and Office Depot arrived on the scene. There are warehouses that will do drop-shipping for home-based mail order business, thereby eliminating the need for an proprietor to worry about inventory and fulfillment.

However, the problem today is the search cost to discover all the various services available. If only, there were a standardized way of find out what’s available. If a government or private corporation could provide an inexpensive, one-stop center for all small business needs from financing, product developments, and so on. This center would not do it all, but partner with the major suppliers and business services, and integrate their various services under one roof.

My hope is that, someday, entrepreneurship will be perceived to be “easy” and “low-risk.” There is a standard place to go to that addresses all of the needs of an entrepreneur. The mundane aspects of business—accounting, payroll, ordering, and fulfillment—can be easily outsourced, and one could focus on the enjoyable aspect of the job, which is the core product or service.

More people will become wealthy and lead happier lives. It wouldn’t be a zero-sum, where one’s wealth comes at the expense of another, but, rather, the direct result of an increase in total national wealth contributed through entrepreneurship.(I know that money doesn’t make people happy, but I do believe that, in addition to more material items, wealthier people tend to have better health, more available time, more and higher-quality friends, and more opportunities.)

There is also the issue of education: The educational system is primarily focused on training people to work as employees for companies, so young adults enter the real world without thinking that entrepreneurship is a realistic option. There is essentially no instruction on entrepreneurship in K-12 and very little in universities; most entrepreneurs come straight from an entrepreneurial family. (I don’t know what the state of education is today; most adults, like myself, were educated, decades ago, when entrepreneurship was definitely much harder.)

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