What is a “digital entrepreneur?” Entrepreneurship has existed since the free market system evolved in the late 1700s. Entrepreneurship allowed individuals to build businesses where goods and services were distributed based on supply and demand rather than monopolistic practices, feudal systems, protectionist laws, and exclusionary guilds.
Similarly, digital computers have existed for nearly 80 years; programmable computers were invented during World War II to crack encryption codes and calculate ballistic trajectories for artillery.
Given this history, what do we mean by a digital entrepreneur? For purposes of this article, a digital entrepreneur requires something more than a free market and a digital programmable computer. The digital entrepreneur requires the Internet. Thus, the digital entrepreneur is someone who uses computer networks as a communication medium to deliver, solicit, or promote the digital entrepreneur’s goods or services. Using this definition, here are five career paths for the digital entrepreneur to consider:
Although 75% of people suffer from speech anxiety, it seems like the other 25% have YouTube channels. A large segment of digital entrepreneurs are in the content business. However, this statement should not be limited to makeup videos and toy unboxings. Digital content can cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from “how to start a business” and “how to become a public speaker” to “how to change your oil.” Also, digital content is not limited to YouTube and Facebook videos. Online content also includes:
- E-books, blogs, and articles
- Educational materials
- Movies and video series
Of course, there are two challenges for the digital entrepreneur who creates content. First, you must develop a distribution model. Second, you must create a business model to monetize the content.
Produce Technological Solutions
This discussion separates content, which is primarily non-functional, from technological solutions, which are functional. In this context, technological solutions include:
- Desktop and enterprise software
- Mobile apps
- Web-based and cloud applications
Essentially, if you create something that someone can use to solve a problem, whether that problem is mapping out a travel route or completing a tax return, then you are a tech entrepreneur.
Sell Physical Goods
In the mid- to late-1990s, the world experienced the Dotcom Boom as the World Wide Web brought e-commerce into people’s homes. This was followed in 2000 by the Dotcom Bust. How did this happen?
The Dotcom Boom was fueled by “tech companies” that were not actually tech companies. Rather, they were retail companies that were given the valuation of a tech company. This overvaluation of plain vanilla retail companies inflated a valuation bubble that had to eventually burst.
With the benefit of hindsight, it becomes apparent that online retailers are not so different from brick and mortar retailers. Clearly, online retailers can reach a broader audience. However, online retailers are still susceptible to the same entrepreneur mistakes as brick and mortar retailers. Specifically, online retailers must have a way to distinguish themselves in the online marketplace just as brick and mortar retailers must have a way to distinguish themselves in the brick and mortar marketplace. Without this competitive advantage, your dream of being an online retail entrepreneur may be doomed from the start.
Think back to all the things that were either impossible or had to be done manually before the Internet. Now, streaming movies and TV are on track to supplant physical media. Digital marketplaces have eliminated the need for classified ads. Dating websites have irreversibly altered how we meet the people we may eventually marry. Real estate listing websites not only give us information about homes for sale, but minute details about everything you would want to know about the area including comps, schools, climate, and traffic.
Again, the challenge to the digital entrepreneur is to find a way to monetize these digital services. Specifically, you have to identify the value you provide that encourages people to pay for the services.
Support Digital Entrepreneurs
Digital entrepreneurs need support to make their businesses successful. Those who provide services to digital entrepreneurs are, themselves, digital entrepreneurs. For example, PR agencies specializing in online reputation management and accountants specializing in sales tax compliance for online retailers play essential roles in the digital economy.
Digital entrepreneurs, like all entrepreneurs, must identify opportunities, then execute a well-thought-out plan to take advantage of them.
Do you want to become a digital entrepreneur? Think about these career paths when you want your skills to shine.