Gone are the days when aspiring entrepreneurs needed hefty funding and office space to start a sustainable business. Today, there are a variety of free and low-cost services that help entrepreneurs like you and I get advice, find capital and develop a customer base. Crowdfunding platforms like Crowdfunder raise awareness and funding for new ventures, tools like my own company Valuation App help entrepreneurs with financial analysis and co-working spaces such as AlleyNYC provide office space and resources to entrepreneurs.
However, just because entrepreneurship is relatively more accessible than ever doesn’t mean it’s easy. Since co-founding iFunding three years ago, I’ve had to overcome numerous hurdles: inexperience, limited cash flow, uncertainty, stress, long hours. But each hurdle I overcame fueled me to work harder. If it weren’t for setbacks, I wouldn’t have known whether I was truly cut out for entrepreneurship or not.
There are countless examples of aspiring entrepreneurs who got their start working at other startups. Quora, a website that allows users to pose questions and give answers, was founded by former Facebook employees Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever. D’Angelo was a CTO, and learned early on the importance of hiring good workers and being able to adapt a business to a fast-paced world. The “Paypal Mafia” is another perfect example of how opportunities can grow exponentially from a single company. These 20+ former Paypal employees went on to found groundbreaking companies like Yelp, Youtube and Kiva.
It is important to recognize the value of your current and past experiences. The company you are “stuck” at today could serve as a resource for the experience and knowledge you’ll need tomorrow. Aside from personal resilience and startup experience, here are the external factors modern entrepreneurs have in their corner:
- Community: Communities are far more complex than they used to be. You can be part of a community in your hometown, a member of another online and part of a third through a national organization — all of which meet at different times and through different mediums. Because of this, you have the potential to impact all of these sub-communities that make up your larger network. Word of mouth is far more powerful when unleashed in several circles; beyond your immediate friends and family.
- Technology: In the past, it was only possible to connect with those nearby. Today, technology enables entrepreneurs to find just the right demographic no matter where they are. Social media platforms help you build your brand, e-commerce sites allow for easy purchases and sites all over the web offer affordable ad rates to draw new customers. The possibilities are endless. Instead of taking out loans or finding investors, young entrepreneurs can use crowdfunding platforms to spread their message and gain support.
- Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding has evolved as a revolutionary form of financing, disrupting the big banks and private investors. It’s also the direct result of the first two points — community and technology. Crowdfunding allows entrepreneurs to show investors their ability to drum up global support, which in turn leads to more capital raised through those investors. You don’t even need prior experience in raising capital or launching products to run a successful campaign. All you need is a solid plan and an idea that solves a common problem.
Contrary to what some will say, there are no hardwired traits that you must have to be a great entrepreneur. Modern times offer a fertile environment and a much more level playing field for entrepreneurs from different backgrounds. Stick with your values and let your passion become contagious. Because if you don’t act on your brilliant idea, who will?
Sohin Shah is an entrepreneur and one of the early adopters of crowdfunding. He successfully crowdfunded Valuation App from 57 backers in 2012 and went on to start iFunding which is now one of the leading real estate crowdfunding platforms in the world. He is extremely passionate about entrepreneurship and loves discussing new ideas.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.