The American Entrepreneur

The American Dream – it’s still a concept that we, as Americans pride ourselves on. It’s a compelling idea. Anyone from any background can, if they work hard enough, make something of themselves. But, do we still support this dream?

According to an article written by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post, entitled “Where Have all the Entrepreneurs Gone?” entrepreneurship has taken a sharp downturn in the 21st century. He cites a study conducted by Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution, which reveals that “the business sector in the U.S. economy is aging […] From 1978 to 2011, startups fell from about 15 percent of all firms to 8 percent.” These are startling figures for a country built on the back of inventors and start-up businessmen. However, after the crash of 2007, the desire to rely on the known, large established corporations, is understandable.

Americans as a whole need to overcome their fear of the unknown so that the economy can give birth to new, young businesses. Without entrepreneurs, we might still be riding in horse drawn carriages, or worse talking on landlines and taking pictures with actual cameras.

To illustrate the reliance of the US economy on entrepreneurship, allow me to take you down memory lane (briefly, I promise).

When you get home from work on a Friday night and slip into a pair of jeans, do you ever think about their original intended use? Denim was originally intended as clothing for gold miners, but jeans have turned into every day wear for the average American. If not for entrepreneur Levi Strauss, who knows what we would be wearing.

How could there be an article on entrepreneurship without a hat tip to visionary, Steve Jobs? He co-founded a business in his parents’ garage and said business is now a blue-chip, global corporation. The products that this entrepreneur helped to drive into existence impact the way people live their everyday lives – how many times a day do you use your iPhone?

The American Gilded Age was a prosperous time for entrepreneurs. Oil tycoon JD Rockefeller was able to create a global business through vertical and horizontal integration. While many raised eyebrows at these practices, they influence the way modern business is conducted. Many corporations were able to achieve their current status as recognizable global brands through horizontal integration- buying other companies in the same industry to expand your reach. A modern example of this is the purchase of PIXAR by Disney in 2006.

The practice of vertical integration, which Rockefeller pioneered, is when a company owns its supply chain. This practice can be and is used by startup companies today, to control the entire customer experience. In his blog, Chris Dixon calls this the “full stack approach,” which lets you “bypass industry incumbents, completely control the customer experience, and capture a greater portion of the economic benefits you provide.”

We are able to utilize vertical integration, or the full stack approach to reduce costs. We are able to carry and manage all customer information and bundle all trades to streamline the investing process. In addition, all our marketing, operations, technology, app development and compliance activities are executed internally. If implemented correctly, vertical integration can give a firm a competitive advantage in the market.

Today, startups are fighting an uphill, but not impossible battle. If the American citizens remember entrepreneurs of the past and put faith in new pioneers of industry, more jobs and stability can be created. Taking a vision from imagination to reality is hard and stressful work, but to borrow a quote from a great movie, A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

by Nicole Dugan

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