Entrepreneurship for the Rest of Us: Mainstream

Scott Francis
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[Last of the statup-related posts for this week! How about a little “entrepreneurship for the rest of us”?!]

Loved reading this guest post from Jerry Engel, on Steve Blank’s blog:

While we’re excited by the results, we’ve realized that we’ve been solving the problem for the 1% of new ventures that are technology startups. The reality is that the United States is still a nation of small businesses. 99.7% of the ~6 million companies in the U.S. have less than 500 people and they employ 50% of the 121 million workers getting a paycheck. They accounted for 65 percent (or 9.8 million) of the 15 million net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009. And while they increasingly use technology as a platform and/or a way of reaching and managing customers, most are in non-tech businesses (construction, retail, health care, lodging, food services, etc.)

Because we work out of the same offices as Red Velvet Events, and have a lot of friends starting and building non-techl businesses (sure, that often utilize technology in clever or critical ways), this really resonates with me.  These non-tech startups don’t need to be in the Bay Area or Silicon Valley or any other region. They just need to be where you have a critical mass of customers.

This is the part I really found fascinating, the notion that you should be at all apologetic for starting a great lifestyle business:

As we dug into learning about Alex’s teaching experience we naturally asked him about the ventures his own students were creating. It was clear Alex was a bit apologetic; photo studios, online retail subscriptions to commodity household and personal hygiene products, etc. Alex explained that in his community building a successful venture that generated nice cash flows – not IPO’s – were the big win. To his students these were not “small businesses”, but ‘their businesses’, their livelihoods and their opportunities to create wealth and independence for themselves and their families.

These are big wins for Alex’s students- wins that will provide for their livelihood, their kids college tuition, and their retirement funds.  More, please!  No need to apologize for this kind of startup just because it may not be the kind of company a VC wants to invest in, or because it isn’t “high-tech”.  Just go build a great business.

Those commenting on the post are clearly in agreement – judging by the tone and quantity, there’s a lot of appreciation for the acknowledgment of the needs of mainstream businesses.  And doesn’t “Mainstream” sound a lot better than “lifestyle” ?  It sure does to my ears.

Sitting by the pond we had a second epiphany: we could easily adjust the Lean LaunchPad class to bring 21st century entrepreneurship techniques to ‘Main Street’. To do this we needed to do is change the end goals and implementation details to match the aspirations and realities that these new small businesses face.
We called this Mainstream Entrepreneurship.

Just as there can be a sound process behind tech startups (the Lean Launchpad or Lean Startup), it looks like Alex and company are focused on building an appropriate startup process for Mainstream startups.