Entrepreneurial shifts in the digital age

By: Lucell Larawan

IF WE look at the most valuable companies in the world, they foster innovation that expands their reach beyond traditional boundaries. This is true to Google and Facebook—the new unicorns that have replaced manufacturing companies in the past decades. Entrepreneurship has taken a new step forward.

In today’s era, business models mostly become meaningless without an online presence, the reason some of the biggest companies are doing all their transactions on the web. On the other hand, overcoming challenges among start-up businesses is now easier to compared before. One can create a video on YouTube and ask donations to finance his or her ventures—bypassing the hard knots and risks in acquiring bank loans. Digitalization has redefined today’s entrepreneurship.

I should define digital entrepreneurship based on Davidson and Vaast’s (2010) definition taken from Proceedings of the 43rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences: the pursuit of “new venture opportunities presented by new media and internet technologies”.

The measure of success of a new digital business is market orientation based on three determinants which are: technological skills, tools for managing a business environment and knowledge of the marketplace. Mastering the technology is no small task. Ignoring the tastes and preferences of the target market can make a business a house of cards. The decision of whether to adopt a new technology is not just the technician’s decision.

Digital entrepreneurship creates economic opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed and improves a community’s living conditions, according to Jackson (2009), who authored the article in a journal, “Capitalizing on digital entrepreneurship for low-income residents…”. This phenomenon should move local government units to prioritize their constituents’ accessibility to the internet.

Moreover, they should give more training programs related to digital business and digital marketing that has generated many income opportunities. It means a slow shift to the digital age from an agricultural economy that may already lose leverage in this 21st century. (I am not advocating a halt for our rice and fish industry.)

I am talking about giving leverage for many people in this digital age. This leverage is seen in the advancements in internet technology enabling Indian entrepreneurs to use new business models to achieve scale and scope as they begin to compete globally.

From a practitioner’s and a researcher’s view, understanding how these Indian entrepreneurs grow successfully with a rapid expansion, is critical.

To give practical advice, I found Dr. Rupa Rathee’s tips helpful in ensuring success in the digital age:

Make use of co-working space. Without an office, a co-working space gives a place where people can easily collaborate, changing the pace of starting businesses and iterating quickly because of great resources.

Give freebies. This means giving some free services to promote businesses—a business model becoming more common nowadays. Examples are sites that help anyone monetize their skills online such as TaskRabbit and ModCloth.

Leverage by crowdfunding. This is about using a platform that gives one’s product a global stage and allows the world to fund his project. Crowdfunding keeps your equity and control of one’s business. As an entrepreneur may encounter difficulty in scaling and getting investors, which gives away his equity through traditional methods of fundraising is not an option.

Invest in the mobile market. Entrepreneurs should contemplate a global market as mobile devices become more personable and smarter.

Create a climate for open innovation. Hire great talents who can innovate and give them access to higher levels of decision-making.

Hire influencers. Social marketing is becoming the trend. If one shares to his or her friend a product that he or she likes, it can spread like wildfire. This is a more effective promotion strategy compared to other media.

Use data in decision making. Feelings cannot substitute data. Entrepreneurs should be data-driven to find out what works best.

Digital entrepreneurship, like the traditional entrepreneurship, purposefully generates profit and is “directly inscribed into the economic realm” (Davidson and Vaast, 2010), such as the creation of a new firm or the commercialization of innovation.

But unlike the traditional business, digital ventures have greater connectivity; thus,they give more market opportunities. Focusing on the market is still very critical, whether we are dealing with digital or traditional formats.