Entrepreneurs are Everywhere
Eric Ries — "When you see Entrepreneurship in the movies we all pretty much know what it looks like. It’s two guys in a garage, eating ramen noodles, they’re working on some crazy new gizmo, everyone thinks they are crazy, and fast forward - boom - all of the sudden they are on the cover of magazines and they are proven right all along. Everyone wishes they had that idea at the beginning. It goes from being crazy to being obvious. But that image of entrepreneurship is really misleading. What makes you an entrepreneur is not what kind of noodles you eat, but rather the context in which you operate.
When I first started writing about entrepreneurship I came up with a definition of a start-up that I thought was pretty good. It seemed pretty helpful me to describe the kind of work that I was doing and friends that I knew and start-ups that they were doing. I said a start-up is a human institution designed to create something new, under conditions of extreme uncertainty. I thought that was a pretty good definition. A lot of the theory of the lean start-up proceeds directly as kind of a deductive consequence of that theory so I was feeling pretty good about it and the first time I was asked to give a talk about lean start-up I got on up stage and I had a slide, and I said ‘A start-up is a human institution designed to create something new, under conditions of extreme uncertainty.’ And I added a little asterisk, because there was something very unusual or interesting about that definition. It doesn’t say anything about what industry you work in. It doesn’t say anything about how big your company is, or even what sector of the economy you are working in so I said very confidently ‘this is a theory that could apply to anyone engaged in innovation creating new products in entrepreneurship anywhere in the world, anywhere in the economy. You don’t have to be a venture-backed company in Silicon Valley. Now to be honest, I had no idea if that was true. At the time I was just trying to act confident and tell my theory and mention this consequence. And from that very first time after my talks - I’ve now spoken about lean start-up hundreds of times since then - people have come up to me invariably every time and said ‘I am an innovator too. I am an entrepreneur but nobody thinks I am an entrepreneur.’ In some cases, work in a big corporate environment, working on new product introduction, or I often meet people who are just tinkering in their garages by themselves. They’re not a venture-backed Silicon Valley entrepreneur they are just building their one e-commerce website. And everything in between: the stay-at-home mom who has got a business on the side; the school-kids who do something to raise money for their school; I meet non-profits, I’ve even met people inside the federal government who are in every respect of the word entrepreneurs.
So when I say entrepreneurs are everywhere, what I mean that entrepreneurship is a worldwide, universal phenomenon that is embedded into the very fabric of our economy. The problem that we’ve been having as entrepreneurs of all kinds, is that prevailing ideas about how to do entrepreneurship aren’t very good, in fact they mostly come from the movies and magazine articles about the two guys eaten ramen noodles. There is something really cool going on in the world today. There are, I think, more entrepreneurs practicing right now than any time in history, and the reasons for that are pretty simple. You gotta go all the way back to our good friend Karl Marx. Karl Marx said that the people who have power in society are those who own the means for production (remember from your European history class?).
What Karl Marx didn’t foresee (in fact very few economists foresaw) is that we now live in an era where anyone we wants can rent the means of production for very, very little money. So it’s not just that it’s cheaper to get started (which is true and especially true in e-commerce), but all the elements that you need, whether it’s manufacturing capability; software production; distribution; access to customers; and of course, through platforms like Shopify, the ability to reach customers with an already built in e-commerce store all ready to go. Whatever capability you need, anyone anywhere in the world with a credit card and access to the internet can get it, not just cheaper, but faster.
If you think about what was required to build a new company even ten years ago, certainly twenty years ago or more, think about all the different people you had to beg for permission; that you had to be able to manage the warehouse, the factory; think about the distribution deals you had to sign; the other companies; the advertising budgets you needed to get approved; of course, in order to do all that expensive stuff the venture capitalists you had to negotiate with; the potential partners you had to get permission from; advertising agencies; publicists - it really adds up. Every one of those begging for permission moments has been transformed into the rentership of the means of productions. The ability to run an experiment yourself without asking anybody to say so. That’s what’s making it possible for so many more people to become entrepreneurs today."