Beyond Unicorns: Can We Democratize Access to Entrepreneurship?

The unicorns are startups with a market capitalization of more than $1 billion. As the media oohs at startups are experiencing rapid growth, record-breaking investments are made, and IPOs become big news.

It is inspiring to witness this type of business success. But there’s one problem. This narrow focus on the top1% does not reflect the number of micro-entrepreneurs that have started small but profitable businesses.

Ruru was an entrepreneur whom I met in Taipei some years back. Ruru, in her early 20s, had just finished college and was a full-time videogame designer. She was intrigued by the idea of starting her own online passion-driven company. She didn’t come from a business background, nor did she have any sales experience. However, she did have a positive attitude and a network of budding entrepreneurs who could help her succeed.

Millions of budding entrepreneurs with a growth mindset, such as Ruru from India, are searching for new opportunities around the globe. In U.S. alone, there are 3.7 million microbusinesses. To pursue your passions and build a brand, you don’t need to be a unicorn investor or have access to a lot of venture capital.

That’s a great headline, especially since many people have been unemployed or are questioning their career aspirations.

In the meantime, many women and previously marginalized groups are joining the entrepreneurial fold. Chat platform Meesho for example, has seven million entrepreneurs, 80% of which are women. They all run their businesses with no capital investment and have no upfront capital requirements. Women’s economic empowerment is a social and economic imperative. Higher gender equality results in more significant economic growth. This leads to better development outcomes. According to a McKinsey Global Institute Study, increasing women’s rights could boost the global economy by $12 trillion by 2025.

But how did this happen? And how can we motivate even more people to leap into this new era of micro-entrepreneurship?

Why entrepreneurship is easier than ever

Multiple trends will merge to create a new way of thinking about entrepreneurship.

First, we have seen an increase in the demand for flexibility in the corporate workplace. Globally, there is a strong demand for flexibility in the workplace, particularly among Millennials. People are more willing to leave jobs that don’t fulfill their requirements and accept work on their terms.

This is in sync with the rise in the passion economy, where people are making their passions profitable businesses by using technology and social platforms. This allows “creators” to create online communities by sharing content, tips, and selling products and services that revolve around the things they love.

Finally, easy-to-use and intuitive technology — in fact, the same platforms that we use to social network — has democratized access and allowed the creation of communities that mix personal passions and business interests. Social media makes it easier for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to get started: There are no brick-and-mortar shops, no significant business loans, and no marketing budget. Even if you have only 100 dedicated followers, it is possible to build a community around what you love.

This demand for tangible work arrangements, the rise of the passion economy, and powerful social networking tools have the courage to unleash micro-entrepreneurship at an unprecedented scale. There is one crucial missing piece in our quest to decentralize entrepreneurship truly.

A mentor is invaluable for anyone starting as a creator. They can offer advice and bounce ideas around. Mentorship is essential, especially during times of uncertainty.

In fact, Mentorly, a digital marketplace for mentorship, has experienced a 457% spike in hike since the pandemic started. Mentorship is often key to the success and development of a new owner’s business. This has been something I have seen firsthand in my own company.

Through platform training programs, micro-entrepreneurs can access an immense amount of expert insight and free advice. 

These training tools are personalized and AI-driven. With platforms learning more about their creators over time, they can serve up new lessons, notifications, and badges based solely on individual personalities or passions.

However, even in this virtual world of increasing connectivity, no tools are more valuable than a listening ear or guiding hand. If someone is beginning their entrepreneurial journey with a smile in their eyes like Ruru, these four words might be the most valuable gift an experienced individual can give: “How can you help?”

In the end, scaling up entrepreneurs will be critical to a more inclusive society. It will also drive global economic growth. It is time to stop focusing on “unicorns” to celebrate instead and lift the millions and millions of micro-entrepreneurs like Ruru, who have achieved success in pursuing their passion and supporting families and their communities.

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Samatha Vale
Samatha a senior writer for HC's entertainment team. She is an entreprenuer, mother and an excellent writer. She's also an avid reader, music enthusiast and all around inquisitive person - which is just a nice way of saying she's nosy.

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