Consider the recent surge of startup companies taking the world by force. It seems that in our modern, hyperconnected, exponential innovation culture, everyone is trying to do some sort of startup. But let’s face it, how many entrepreneurs are in it simply because of the glamor that is associated with having a successful startup? With individuals such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg starting highly lucrative startup companies in the past couple of years, it’s not too much of a surprise that everyone seems to want to do the same.
Is it simply the rags to riches story that captivates the heart of every wantrepreneur out there?
Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify that I believe an entrepreneurial mindset is simply someone who has a vision for something bigger than themselves, and takes steps toward making their dream happen. An entrepreneur isn’t necessarily someone with a company or venture funding, but someone who connects things in ways that have never been connected before. (tweet that)
Now consider the fact that startup companies in the modern sense of the term have only been around for a few decades at most. If you think back to the days before people were able to scale businesses globally via the internet, or even before the industrial revolution, a very different mentality of entrepreneurship emerges.
In fact, it seems almost that ancient civilizations heralded the individuals who built empires such as Alexander the Great, Napolean, or even certain dictators in a similar fashion as we look up to Elon Musk today. Even though it’s debatable whether you would consider someone like Alexander the Great an entrepreneur, but it’s nevertheless interesting to see the way that having an impact on the world has evolved from building great empires to compiling code and arranging setups on computers and digital devices.
And looking at all the history in between reveals more about the evolution of what it means to be an entrepreneur. There were philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle who changed the way that people thought and perceived life. There were scientists such as Newton and Darwin who have influenced modern day science in a very major way, and scientists who studied medicine that found cures for epidemics across the world. There were inventors such as Edison, Tesla, Ford, who changed the way that we lived and got around. There were so many other people who influenced the world in so many different ways that I can’t even begin to list.
When you truly look back at all the things and events through history, the current perception of startups and entrepreneurship seems a little limited. What difference does a self destructing photo application make in comparison to the invention of the internal combustion engine?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there are plenty of deserving software and mobile companies that are doing things that are truly necessary and remarkable, but with the craze for computer science and software taking over developed countries, I can’t help but wonder if we’re overlooking facets of life that truly need the most change. And as a computer science student myself, I wonder if building something meaningful is about learning how to write a mobile application or optimize a database.
It’s time to expand our horizons as to what is possible, taking lessons from history and applying them to how we approach startups and innovative ideas in the present so that we can create the future.
To me, the true innovations of the future lie in industries such as education, agriculture, energy, and health. And unfortunately, it’s the industries that need the most change that seem like the most unglamorous industries to be starting a company in. Focused on long term, large scale change, these problems and innovations are the ones that we should be putting our top talent to, even if there is no apparent exit plan.
It’s time to expand our horizons as to what is possible, taking lessons from history and applying them to how we approach startups and innovative ideas in the present so that we can create the future. Let’s not get so tunnel visioned in our modern day perception of startups that we forget how to be truly entrepreneurial in solving problems that affect our modern day lives.
When the dust settles a hundred years from now, the innovations that are going to be remembered are the ones that tackled the biggest challenges in the most revolutionary ways, so think twice before you devote your life to working full-time on your next idea.