Believe it or not, there was a time when an aspiring entrepreneur would come up with a concept, develop a detailed business plan, prototype and refine the concept, seek a credit line from a bank, and then give it a go by bringing the concept to market. Oh how times have changed.
Today, concepts are generated and tomorrow morning they are brought to market. For example, the Hot or Not rating website founded in the fall of 2000 was merely a “what if” thought for James Hong and Jim Young on a Friday night. By the following Monday, the attractiveness rating website was up and running, and within a week had almost two million page views a day. Within a few months, the site was ranked in NetNielsen Ratings as a Top 25 advertising sites, second to CNET and NBC. Hot or Not sold for an estimated $20M in February 2008.
Millennial entrepreneurs, just like the generation before them, and the one before that, are changing the way business is done and redefining how to get that work done. In a big way.
Here are the five best tools in the millennial entrepreneur’s toolbox:
1. Engage the customer early – Millennial entrepreneurs have taught us to introduce a concept in its “beta” or even “alpha” state so that you can get critical feedback from customers on what is working and what’s not. By engaging the customer early in the process, you can modify your offering to meet their exact needs. No more guessing. No more wasting time or money.
2. Let the best customers find you – The best customers may not be the one you originally thought. Millennials are naturals at mining their socially connected networks for insights on who is buying the most and who is talking the most about their offering. It may be a different group than expected. And if it is, the business is modified to meet the best customers’ need.
3. Embrace the on-the-go mentality – The majority of millennial entrepreneurs (56 percent) can see themselves working entirely from an iPad or tablet in the next year and more than one in three (36 percent) say they rely on more than five apps to run their business. Millennials have embraced smartphones and tablets as the new desktop for ultimate mobility and leverage the cloud to help them to get work done from anywhere.
4. Catch the wave and then get off – Millennial entrepreneurs jump on an opportunity fast, use cloud technologies to cost effectively establish an efficient, nimble business systems infrastructure (phone, fax, accounting), and leave the market just as quickly as they entered when it dries up. Millennials have even taken the concept off the net, with pop-up-stores. For example, Halloween stores open in early October and shut down a few days after Halloween. That’s the right way to ride the wave of opportunity.
5. The rise of venture incubators – Practically any business can be bootstrapped, but in some cases it can be a long, long runway. Good concepts, matched with market demand, can launch faster with extra funds and expert mentoring. Enter venture incubators. Millennials are pairing up with firms like Y-Combinator to bring about strong businesses faster than ever.
Just like any other business growth approach, the millennials’ method is not without its risks. A business that continually addresses the customers needs to the determinant of the company’s vision can quickly become misaligned and fizzle out. Additionally, moving at hyper-speed may not allow the concept to take hold in the market before it is yet again modified.
The millennial approach works and is perfectly suited for the speed of business today. But, just like anything in life, it is not a guaranteed success formula. Nothing is guaranteed in business, even for the millennials.
Hungry for more? On Thursday, September 19th at 12:00 noon Eastern Time (9:00am Pacific Time), I will be hosting a tweet chat to discuss the ways that small business owners, including the ones run by millennium entrepreneurs, can leverage the cloud to build a business at hyper-speed.