The digital age has undoubtedly brought significant changes to the entrepreneurial community. Both fixed and marginal costs are now lower than ever resulting in fewer barriers to entry for aspiring entrepreneurs. As more and more young students have capitalized on this opportunity society has become fascinated by the college-student-turn-billionaire concept enabled by these trends. The Internet economy is not without its drawbacks. Businesses must now find new and unique competitive advantages as the marginal costs of Internet services approach zero. Also, certain existing industries have been greatly challenged by the disruptive nature of this new economy. However, I believe the greatest impact of the digital economy will be its ability to act as a gateway for aspiring entrepreneurs.
No one exemplifies this concept better than Elon Musk. After graduating from college Musk formed two Internet based companies: Zip2 and later PayPal. Both ventures achieved great success and were started with little else than Musk’s own creativity. It is difficult to imagine an entrepreneur receiving such rapid achievement from little investment before the changes brought by the digital revolution. However, Musk did not stop after PayPal. Instead, he invested his profits into his own new venture, SpaceX. Unlike Zip2 and PayPal, SpaceX has little or nothing to do with the Internet. Rather, this company develops rockets and spacecraft which use reusable vehicles. SpaceX has already transformed space exploration from an exclusively government controlled operation to competition amongst private firms. Musk further went on to fund and lead the development of Tesla Motors, a company frequently credited with revolutionizing the automotive industry.
This example illustrates how the Internet has been able to act at as “gateway,” allowing creative individuals to become entrepreneurs. In the case of Musk, he was able to expand from digital markets with low costs to developing markets with astronomical costs. The Internet has changed our society in countless overt ways, however perhaps this is the greatest contribution the Internet will make, it can guide individuals into the world of business and innovation. As countless business leaders can now attest to, the Internet allows for entrepreneurship “with training wheels” due to unprecedentedly low barriers to entry. Hopefully the web will be the beginning of myriad serial entrepreneurs.