Why do we always tend to look at the Silicon Valley when we think of entrepreneurship ? Undoubtedly there is a lot of energy, excitement and buzz around things that come from there. The Wall Street Journal published an infographic in 2015 depicting the 73 companies globally valued at over $1 billion. Yes, admittedly, tech unicorns like Uber ($41.2 billion) and Palantir ($15 billion) were in the upper echelons with possibly inflated valuations. But there were several non-tech companies too, such as a consumer good company - Honest Co., ($1 billion), a healthcare company - Theranos ($9 billion) and a real estate company - WeWork ($5 billion).
Silicon Valley has been the center of a great technological revolution. The tech valuations do sometimes defy imagination and their successes are not always easy to replicate.
None of this is meant to diminish what is happening in Silicon Valley, rather it is meant to assert that entrepreneurship is possible everywhere in every industry. Furthermore, businesses that tend to make money, rather than just hoping to make money, are more sustainable. So where should you look? Everywhere.
To help my students understand the breadth of possibilities, I have them read Rachel Bridge's My Big Idea, which highlights 30 small entrepreneurial ventures across a variety of industries in the UK. Examples include companies offering hot dogs, coffee, baby foods, insurance and travel. There is even the story of the young lady who convinced the musical group Abba to support her idea of making the musical Mama Mia. Where did all these ideas come from? Often they arose from their passions, their life circumstances and their travels. The students breathe a sigh of relief because these are stories they can relate to and they can see themselves doing similar things.
I do not want to minimize the great benefits created by Silicon Valley type companies; they have generated enormous value and in many cases changed the way we live. But I do want to emphasize the fact that there are many ways to create value, in virtually every industry and in every country. Create a technology company if that is your passion, but using technology as a driver may open up even more opportunities.
Problem - Solution, that is the real mantra of entrepreneurs. Understand the process, develop the discipline and see how your world changes.