We talk a lot about entrepreneurs and what they do, but have you actually thought much about what an entrepreneur actually is? If not, read on because the subject is more interesting than you might think.
An entrepreneur is an individual who starts their own business or organization with an aim to either make a profit, make a positive difference in the world, or both. Entrepreneurs are, by their nature, risk-takers. They look for new opportunities, or even create them sometimes, and work very hard to build up one or more companies from idea to actualization.
Famous entrepreneurs include Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates – I’m sure you’ve heard of them!
What is the history of entrepreneurship?
The history of entrepreneurship is a long and interesting one, so we can only hope to cover some of the major milestones here. That being said, let’s take a dive in.
Traders and merchants
Traders and merchants would have been the first entrepreneurs and the first of those we know about date back to around 17,000 BCE in the location of New Guinea. Many locals would trade a type of black glass known as obsidian, which was used to make arrowheads for hunting, in exchange for other much-needed goods including food. This is entrepreneurialism at its most basic.
The cities of the MIddle-East
As humans evolved and became more sophisticated, entrepreneurialism evolved too. In approximately 4,000 BCE, many central Asians were known to tame horses in order to trade them, as well as use them in agriculture and war. As cities were settled, more and more people began to grow food and create the energy needed for growth, and many of them would trade the fruits of their labor, paving the way for ever more progress.
As trade routes grew up and spread, individuals from different towns, cities, and even countries were able to trade goods over a wider area, which enabled more entrepreneurs to spring up trading in luxury commodities such as spice, and exotic fruits. Eventually, this leads to trade hubs being created in places like Egypt, Rome, and China. It also led to something more akin to modern entrepreneurship with individuals trading commodities via shipping routes, but it was not until approximately 600 BCE, and the advances in warfare that iron weapon forgery brought when trade really took off.
The creation of money
Something akin to money had been used as far back as 2000 BCE in Ancient Iraq when silver bars and rings were traded for other goods, However, it was not until 7th century B.C that modern coins as we would recognize them were developed in Turkey. This changed the game for entrepreneurs who could trade goods, not for other goods, but for something just as valuable which they could save and use to purchase what they needed when they needed it most, rather than bartering for what was available at the time.
The development of markets
Around 1470 markets started to spring up along with a swift increase in trade and cities. This is when modern entrepreneurs really became a thing. Individuals would import large quantities of goods with the intention of selling them on for a profit. They started to standardize prices and hire bookkeepers in a manner that we would recognize today. Some even set up workshops for cresting textiles and butchering animals, which was very similar to the warehouses and production lines we are all so familiar with today. Although much more primitive in their setups.
The Industrial revolution
In 1712, the industrial revolution was kicked off when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam train in Devon, England. That was the start of things to come, and soon entrepreneurs were harnessing the power of machinery to set up automated production lines and mass-produce a wide range of goods. This made for vastly improved economies of scale, which allowed many entrepreneurs to get very rich, very quickly.
Modern entrepreneurs operate in much the same way as entrepreneurs of the past, although now they deal in money, credit cards, and bitcoin payments, amongst others, to grow their wealth. They also have access to computer technology and automation to make their lives easier, which means they can make bigger profits with less effort than the entrepreneurs of even the Industrial Revolution could ever have dreamed of.
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The different kinds of entrepreneurs
In the past entrepreneurs would have exclusively been made up of men of high standing or wealthy backgrounds. Today, things are a bit different, and becoming an entrepreneur is something that is potentially available to anyone from any background if they are willing to take a chance and work hard. So, let’s take a look at the most common kinds of entrepreneurs today:
Solopreneurs are individuals who run their businesses alone. This gives them more control and more freedom, but it also requires more handwork.
Online entrepreneurs are individuals who have set up companies that operate primarily online such as eCommerce companies, internet marketers, or content creation companies.
These days, there are many women entrepreneurs, many of which are very successful, bringing their own unique skills and talent to the table. Some of the most successful women entrepreneurs include Coco Chanel, Arianna Huffington, and JK Rowling.
Thanks largely to the internet, it is now possible for youth to become young entrepreneurs using only their creativity and the basic tools available to them. The youngest ever CEO in the world is Hillary Yip, who at just 15 set up her own education platform MinorMynas.
A serial entrepreneur is someone who is not content with just one successful business, so they use their creativity, skills, and leverage to create multiple successful companies instead.
I hope this has taught you a bit more about entrepreneurialism, and what it entails. Who would have thought entrepreneurism would have such a fascinating history!