Guest post from Jason Graft, CEO of CrowdIt.
“Equality through opportunity” can be more than a pipe dream. In fact, several innovations have made this idea a reality. While it’s important to be aware of the socioeconomic gaps across the world, it’s equally important to recognize the substantial opportunities available for anyone to be an agent of change. Nowhere is this more relevant than in entrepreneurism and business. Just look at America – the “Land of Opportunity.”
New and evolving technologies are connecting things, machines and people all over the world. According to InternetWorldStats.com, by June 2012, there was an estimated 2.4 billion internet connections worldwide (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm). Furthermore, the number of these connections worldwide is growing at a tremendous rate, especially in developing areas of the world like Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I point this out because the rise of the internet (and the resulting innovation) has given rise to new ways of doing business and has enabled the individual to connect the collective power of many. If you were to ask three-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman about this notion, he’d probably say that technology alone has leveled the economic playing field, making those who were once considered “long shots” with “pipe dreams” now real contenders in the global economy (see The World is Flat (http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/bookshelf/the-world-is-flat). As an entrepreneur and proponent of giving everyone an equal opportunity to succeed (both in business and in life), I see great power in the opportunities of today.
While this is an altruistic way of looking at business, it also signifies the transformation that is happening in the digital world, which is directly impacting the way we start new businesses and projects. Case in point is crowdfunding. For anyone who’s ever felt like they can’t realize their dreams or start their passion project, please consider this stat: according to industry research firm Massolution, in 2011, 170 crowdfunding platforms raised more than $1.5 billion and funded more than one million projects (http://www.crowdsourcing.org/research). These numbers are expected to grow, resulting in even more crowdfunding options and opportunities for anyone with an internet connection. The bottom line? There’s no excuse anymore for people not to follow their dreams.
Just deciding to start a passion project or a new business venture is the first step in the right direction. The truth is that most ventures or businesses fail to reach their maximum potential because of two main reasons: lack of experience and lack of funding.
(Credit: CreditDonkey – See full infographic here: http://www.creditdonkey.com/business-swim.html)
These are two problems that I have faced as an entrepreneur and I certainly won’t be the last. In fact, upon considering these two challenges, I decided to look at what resources were available to overcome them. Crowdfunding looked like an obvious and innovative way to gain funding for a new project, especially in a time where people are feeling disenfranchised from the more traditional ways of attaining funding. But to me, what crowdfunding was missing has to do with the second challenge – experience.
One great attribute of the U.S. (and several other countries across the world) is the focus and support on small business development. Small businesses are the lifeblood to economic stability and the dynamo that increases wealth amongst citizens. What people may not know is there are numerous available resources to gain assistance, guidance, and mentorship for starting a new endeavor. Organizations like SCORE (http://www.sba.gov/content/score, a nonprofit association comprised of 13,000+ volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S.) and Startup America (http://s.co/# a White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation) are just two of several major support systems for small business and entrepreneurism. I’d also urge people to find a local Small Business Development Center within their community (http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-development-centers-sbdcs) and to tap a local business incubator found through the National Business Incubation Association (http://www.nbia.org/).
So why can’t we incorporate these fundamental support structures into the crowdfunding experience and lend support beyond just funding? The truth is we can and we are! My colleagues and I recently launched a new crowdfunding portal called CrowdIt (www.crowdit.com) with a goal of acting as a virtual incubator. This is the beginning of a new model that we believe is going to revolutionize the way small businesses are created because it addresses the two main problems for startup success. This framework also incentivizes people to work together, to network with thought leaders and industry professionals and to seek mentorship and resources – all building blocks of long-term success in business and in any endeavor people choose to reach for in life. Our mission is to help ordinary people do extraordinary things – to follow their dreams and become part of the fabric of ideals of what we call the “New American Dream.”
Being an entrepreneur means creatively defining your own destiny. Entrepreneurship has evolved from just having a financial stake in something to taking an active role in driving new ways of thinking and doing. It was my desire to see others succeed that motivated my partners and me to get involved in the crowdfunding space. In today’s age, I want people to understand there are support mechanisms available for anyone, equal opportunities to start a new venture and with the aid of resources like technology, anything is possible. Furthermore, people (in general) want to help one another. So don’t fear the unknown – embrace it and take action because the time is now.
The playing field has been leveled and crowdfunding has helped that transformation. Embrace it. Make your dream happen.
So what is your passion?
How do you want to make your mark on the world?