Part 2 of my two-part series. Read Part 1, about Skees Foundation’s partner Idea4Africa’s innovative youth training program, here.
What types of companies will be needed, and how will they differ in structure, function, and valuation, from startups in the past? How will technology create greater access for people in remote and underserved areas to become entrepreneurs?
Diversity and Inclusion
Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur.
First-choice job: Being an entrepreneur has become the ubiquitous first-choice job. Globally, young professionals would rather launch their own venture than work for someone else. And in the U.S., older workers feel the same way; in fact, 82 percent of entrepreneurs are now forty and older, according to Finances Online.
Diversity in leadership: 40% of all social enterprise executives are women, while 31% of directors are of Black Asian Minority Ethnic descent and 40% experience a disability. (The Ritz-Herald)
Power-sharing becomes imperative: “We can continue with further inequalities and the destruction of the planet,” prophesizes Power, For All author Julie Battilana, “or we can dare to reform our social and economic systems” by giving workers a voice in company decision-making and providing fairer distribution of resources across race, gender, and class.
Disruptive technology equalizes access: Disruptive innovations emerge from the bottom of the market and give access to populations who didn’t previously have it; thus democratizing goods, services, and the benefits that come with them. Think SaaS, software as a service, for remote work.
Even Small Startups Have an International Reach
Globalism becomes the norm: It’s easier than ever, even for small and nascent companies, to collaborate internationally. “For example, a U.S. green-energy startup can tap an independent Japanese-led engineering design team to work on a bid to construct a hybrid plant in Afghanistan,” explains Finances Online.
Interwebbing gives everyone a platform: Everyone can create a website and reach an audience through media outlets they use, such as YouTube and TikTok videos, Shopify retailing, and Twitch gaming, and make an income from their kitchen table or comfy bed via affiliate marketing and member subscriptions.
Passions turn into products: A record number of businesses are forecasted to be started this year, says Entrepreneur, with a trend toward people who turn a beloved hobby (such as growing succulents or assembling charcuterie boards) into income streams.
Purpose Matters More Than Profit
Quantifiable social benefit becomes intrinsic to a company’s value.
Demand for ethical business: “Social enterprises give consumers a more ethically satisfying way to spend their money,” –Author/entrepreneur Dr. Srikanth Gaddam, The Ritz-Herald. Consumers will increasingly demand that businesses direct their mission or a portion of proceeds to the benefit of humanity or the environment. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes more than just policy or “good PR”–it’s intrinsic to a company’s value.
Environmental/social/governance (ESG) becomes universal: More companies (like Skees Foundation) will invest in and focus on three distinct areas: ecological best practices, access for the underserved, and diversity and equity in leadership. “For younger generations” especially, according to an article on entrepreneurship trends for 2022/2023, “it’s all about ethically-sourced raw materials, better working conditions for employees, gender equality, and environment-friendly policies.”
Consumers will quickly sniff out, call out, and shun insincerity.
Authenticity matters: As information sharing becomes more instantaneous, consumers quickly sniff out and call out insincerity (“digital backlash”), shun products or people, or support them with personal endorsements.
Sustainability gets baked into the design process: Cradle-to-grave sustainability planning needs to be “built into everything,” to create serious value for all stakeholders and go beyond good intentions, says We Forum. It’s good for financial profit, too: Accenture reports that companies with high ESG performance have 2.6 times higher annual returns.
Every business goes green: Gearing businesses toward preserving–or even repairing–the planet, once the purview of liberal hippies, has now become de rigueur, because consumers (particularly the young and educated) demand it. We’ll see an uptick in recycling businesses, energy consumption auditors, green architects and builders, organic food sellers, and eco-focused specialists across all industries.
Younger generations want their employers’ values to match their own.
Companies are judged by their culture: Employees care less about ping-pong tables and bean-bag chairs and more about their leaders’ values and respect toward staff. “Younger generations want their employer’s values to match their own,” says Neil Sequeria, cofounder of defy.vc. “It’s critically important to work where the impact of what they do on the world is accounted for. And that is a change from many generations in the past.”
Technology Democratizes Opportunity
Proptech expands: Property technology, aimed toward real-estate management, garnered over $9.5 billion in investment in 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal, and this trend will continue.
Social commerce creates a two-way conversation between the company and the consumer.
Digital marketing is crucial: Entrepreneurs can easily target their audience through social media, online searches, gaming, and apps. Social commerce opens up two-way communication between the company and the customer; for example, pop-up ads target consumer behavior (e.g. I’m redesigning my kitchen so I get an ad for dishwashers) and send feedback to the seller on whether I clicked through and/or made a purchase.
Platform or subscription-based businesses make entrepreneurship more accessible: Online memberships (both paid and free) to apps or websites that deliver goods or services, such as education, telecom, healthcare, media and entertainment, and retail, mean that a twelve-year-old suburban girl or an eighty-year-old rural man can build empires from anywhere.
Mobile businesses will leapfrog the need for brick-and-mortar stores, computers, and even the internet.
Mobile business can scale even in places with little or no infrastructure: Advertising, communication, and sales increasingly occur via mobile devices (and SMS) rather than desktop or in-person. In addition, the old-fashioned version of a mobile business–literally, from food trucks to grocery delivery, beauty services to home repairs, will continue to surge.
Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will invade the world: Machines and robots will perform tasks previously done by humans; for example, trucks driving themselves, cashierless store checkouts, and electronic ordering at restaurants. AI will give us the ability to “learn from the future” rather than the past, says the World Economic Forum, by analyzing data patterns to anticipate trends before they occur, and will “blend the virtual with the real using all the senses” to infuse real virtualities into all aspects of everyday life.
Cashless options will grow: Cryptocurrency (bitcoin and dogecoin) and Ethereum blockchain non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will go mainstream, says Small Biz Trends. Mobile-phone banking will continue to increase and scale from underserved places such as Kenya and India to Asian, European, and American countries.
Wellbeing Supersedes Wealth
More of us seek work that feels like it matters in our fragile world.
Meaning matters: The pandemic has brought our mortality to the front of mind. More of us seek work that feels like it matters in our fragile world, and we want to contribute in a way that adds value.
Personalization and customer-centricity are expected: Consumers will increasingly seek original products and demand to feel that they matter personally to the vendors they choose. All those cookies we get pushed into permitting on websites may help vendors better serve our individual interests and needs, after all!
Work/life balance becomes life/work balance: Entrepreneur reporter Sarah Hawley points out, “Never before has the entire world had to simultaneously be still” as in the past two years, and that “The [resultant] Great Resignation” proves a fundamental shift in our relationship to work, in which human wellbeing supersedes productive output. We now take time for soul-searching, reflection, and centering, says Hawley.
Human wellbeing has a greater value than productive output.
Working from home (WFH) turns everyone into digital nomads: More people will work with teams across their continent or the planet, easily, asynchronously, and more productively. Even fundraising and capital raising, says Fast Company, will become remote.
More services will support home-life and home-work: Many more startups will be needed (says Business News Daily) for the residential side of home cleaning and organizing, food delivery, gardening, pet care, family healthcare; also for the WFH side of website design, transcription and content writing/editing services, digital marketing, remote bookkeeping and accounting, online teaching and consulting, as well as, Webflow blog adds, home improvement and remote conferences and events.
Digital healthcare will flourish: Along those lines there will be a boom, says Harvard Business School (HBS), in remote patient monitoring, telehealth medical and counseling appointments, and apps for improving patient health. Healthcare will transcend geography (through digital delivery across state lines and country borders) and make even specialized services more accessible, efficient, and patient-centric.
Flexibility and Autonomy Replace Job Security
Freelance/gigging replaces long-term employment: Companies (even such giants as Airbnb and Uber) trade employee loyalty for savings on overhead and benefits. Their challenge will be to gauge market fluctuations over time and be able to supply that need with independent staff that owe them nothing. Harvard professor Joseph Fuller notes a pivot from company profits to investing in upskilling staff and minimizing turnover. Companies will have to compete to keep the best talent.
Clearly, the work world of the future will look vastly different, given the cultural changes in the “workplace” to home, vehicle, and other remote locations, work time to flexible and parcelled into one or many gigs, and primary focus from productivity to wellbeing. Technology will create bridges of finance and banking, communication and platform, and coworkers and investors, that will allow more people in more places to create inventions, audiences, and ventures. Finally, perhaps the happiest prediction of all–for those of us in the social sector–is that, more widely and deeply, value for the Earth and humans will matter more than the invention of money.
Cover image courtesy of Eli Alvaraz for Unsplash.