Entrepreneurship and Hope

Entrepreneurs are optimistic.  They have to be because the challenge they have chosen can be daunting.  The odds are stacked against them.  Usually because their idea lies in this graph.

If your laughing, laugh a little harder because it’s true.  If someone told you they wanted to do a 140 character microblog, or start a black car service using your cell phone, what would you have thought?

Often when we think of entrepreneurship, we think only in terms of scalable startups.  But, there are plenty of ideas worth pursuing that are not fundable by startup investors.

My friend Sean McIntosh runs the Kansas City Bunker, is a former Navy Seal and  sent me this article.  A concern of some in the tech community is that we are innovating so fast, we are displacing a lot of jobs.  What do we do if innovation moves so quickly it outpaces ability for humans to find work?

My friend Albert Wenger has started inspecting, and then advocating for basic income.  I like the idea in principle, but don’t know how we would actually apply it.  I am more comfortable with the idea of a negative income tax.    But I think there is more we can do before we adopt that policy.


Robotics, artificial intelligence, algorithms and other technology can quickly replace humans.  It’s not just at the low commoditized mundane end of the job chain, it’s also at the top.  General Electric has an anesthesia machine that can replace a doctor in the operating room.

That creates fear.

Sean correctly sees some opportunity.  For example, in the “internet of things” there will be jobs created that we cannot foresee.  Maintenance and installation jobs, surveillance, etc.    When new technologies come around, it’s almost impossible to see every single job they will create in the future.

That should alleviate some fear.

When we examine public policy, we find more hurdles.  The University of Chicago Law School took a look at it.   For the last 10 years, their Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship has been helping entrepreneurs fight off regulators and get their business started.

What they have found is that there are legions of regulations, licensing requirements and other impediments on the books that stop would be small business people from starting up in the first place.  Many of these occupations wouldn’t be replaced by a robot, algorithm or artificial intelligence.  They are more artisan and transactional in nature.

The data has shown that entrepreneurship, or the pace of small business creation is down in America.  This is dangerous.  The White House has started a “Startup America” initiative.  But, it’s focusing on scalable startups.  For big time job creation to happen, we also need to figure out ways for Mom and Pop’s to have an easy time starting up too.

Over and over I find that entrepreneurs that create scalable startups come from families that have Mom and Pop small business in their background somewhere.  They learn a lot about operating a business from working there.  Those Mom and Pop’s add so much to the community by creating all kinds of opportunities, and by adding to the color and fabric of the neighborhood.  What would a city like Chicago be like without it’s hot dog stands?