Entrepreneurship has grown 58.5 percent in 2016, an increase of 11.6 percentage points over 2015, Fast Company reports. While the 1980s represent a high-water mark in entrepreneurship, the increasing ubiquity of the internet has led to a boom in entrepreneurship, as businesses are able to provide goods and services more directly to consumers.
While entrepreneurship is a dream for many, it’s also a risk, and starting a business on the internet brings a unique set of challenges. What are those challenges? How can they be overcome?
What Is an Internet Entrepreneur?
What exactly is an internet entrepreneur? Entrepreneurs risk their own assets in order to start business ventures. The internet has made taking entrepreneurial risks less expensive and more accessible than in a brick-and-mortar business, which has had a democratizing effect on the field. From social media to blogs to crowdfunding sites, the options for entrepreneurs are growing, which makes today the era of the internet startup.
Tips for Internet Entrepreneurs
Keep It Visual
The internet has made visual design increasingly important for successful small businesses; a business can easily differentiate itself from its competition with attractive design and a clean interface. From Flickr’s strong emphasis on eye-catching photography to Netflix’s distinctive, bold red design, a unified visual theme is a powerful way to create brand identity.
Sell the Experience
Entrepreneurship relies on filling a need. The key is finding that need and communicating to potential customers how a product or service can make their lives easier. Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes saw a need among companies: Social media was a new, emerging idea and many companies had trouble managing it and using it effectively. HootSuite was sold as an easy way to handle all of a company’s social media with a single tool, and that approach quickly brought HootSuite business.
When building a community, it’s important to treat people the same way we would in real life. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake suggests that budding entrepreneurs “observe communities to learn how people behave,” according to an interview with Entrepreneur. By learning how to treat customers with respect and authenticity, entrepreneurs can create a strong community around their product or service and build brand loyalty.
Startups are often small when they’re first founded, sometimes with only one person working for the company. In Harvard Business Review, Gina Trapani suggests automating repetitive tasks in order to streamline them. By doing so, entrepreneurs can offload menial tasks onto software, freeing them up to focus on the big picture.
Successful Internet Entrepreneurs
One thing is certain about internet entrepreneurs like Holmes, Fake and Trapani: The business ideas they bring with them are varied and innumerable.
Fake discovered a knack for building online communities that turned her into a self-described “serial entrepreneur.” She started blogging in 1998 about culture, technology, film, women in business and a variety of other topics. From there, she started building other online communities, including Flickr and her recent startup, Findery. Fake is also on the boards of Etsy, Creative Commons and the Berkeley School of Information.
Lifehacker is one of the internet’s most popular blogs, a resource for those seeking to improve their productivity or the convenience and efficiency of their daily lives. Trapani founded Lifehacker and also builds mobile apps such as Makerbase, ThinkUp and Todo.txt. Trapani focuses on productivity and other life hacks, and her expertise with such tools has garnered her significant success.
Best known as the founder and CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings started his entrepreneurial career in 1991 when he founded Pure Software, a company that created debugging tools for software engineers. As CEO of Netflix, Hastings continues to innovate, pushing television into new and uncharted territory by delivering new kinds of television and changing the way we consume it.
After dropping out of college, Holmes started a paintball company and then a pizza restaurant. Later he founded Invoke Media, the company that would, in 2009, create HootSuite. Now, as CEO of HootSuite, his company serves 800 of the Fortune 1000 companies, giving them tools to manage their social media efforts.
If you’re thinking about becoming an internet entrepreneur, Jefferson’s online Innovation MBA provides a curriculum you can use to build your expertise.