Throughout history there has always been entrepreneurs - they've just not always been called that. The creators of the new new thing, or those who bring the future faster to the present, these are the people who are part of that same section of society throughout the ages.
It's important to realise that entrepreneurs are the reason the world moves forward. As they leverage the disruptive technologies of their day - whether using the stars to navigate the ocean, the printing press, the microprocessor, or the genome - they expand the pie for the rest of society. That is, they bring prosperity that would come at long last, but they usher it in with haste. Life becomes easier as entrepreneurs solve the friction points through new products and services.
They don't do it alone, of course. Good entrepreneurs - those who are really worthy of the name - create the conditions of trust for every member of their team to make their best contribution. Yes, someone has to drive the train, and deal with the headwinds and storms, but everyone else is also just as essential to the smooth running of the train. Without maintenance on the engine, or new features of the train design, keeping the books of the train, or consistent service in the cabins of the train etc, then there isn't much purpose for the train. A driver without a train crew is like a football captain without a team: to what end?
People naturally fit into different parts of the continuum of embracing change. Some people are very comfortable in the white spaces of low structure and big frontier. They don't need perfect information to act. In fact, they don't like other people's perfect information because they see things that other people don't. Others need more foundation in order to add their value and pick up speed. Others still want more of the building built before they can add the final decoration and multiply the design throughout the world. So they're the people who are developers of blueprints, those who build the early structures and iterate, and then those whose job it is to take a blueprint which is proven and scale it rapidly.
Everyone is necessary in order to build a new common sense of how society works as new technologies emerge. When the main mode of transport was the horse and carriage, the infrastructure supported that as the dominant vehicle. But entrepreneurs were working away on combustion engines and cars, and electric cars and gas-powered ones. The messy dynamics of the marketplace of ideas and innovation ensued, and despite the early promise of the electric car, the infrastructure supporting cars fuelled with petrol won out. Cheap oil in Texas emerged, which gave an advantage to petrol-fuelled cars; an industry emerged. Paved streets and suburban neighborhoods could arise only then as fast transport became practical.
So history shows us that the best ideas don't win. The best technology doesn't win either. Otherwise we would all be flying the Concorde, but we aren't - we're flying jumbo jets. Those ideas with technology which create the best infrastructure in society first and convince society of their 'new common sense' emerge as the winners.
What does this tell us about the necessary steps to take new products and services to market? Tune into the market. Listen to people's use of your product or service. Or listen to their complaints about what they can't do today, and imagine, build, and deploy. But don't just project your vision; remember your vision can be captured with delight by the market or can be ignored, and end up in the dustpin of history. Marketing beats technology again and again. Marketing is merely the input of the market back into product.
This isn't always about technology. Martin Luther, who is the figure behind the Protestant Reformation of 1517, had a crazy idea. Although a theologian, he had vision: he didn't buy into the Catholic Church's role as intermediary to God. He could have been easily put to death as heretics were want to do in those days, but he used the social media of his day: pamphlets. The Bible was also coming into widespread distribution due to the printing press, and he created a 'new common sense' that people could speak directly to God, and because of both technology, marketing and courage, his start-up - his version of Christianity - survived; it's called Lutheranism today.
So whether individuals had to face down difficult patrons like the Medici family or Queen Isabella in the case of entrepreneurs like Michaelangelo or Christopher Columbus, or modern day entrepreneurs like Alastair Lukies who went to 119 meetings before securing the first client for his company, Monitise in mobile banking, persistence is the key ingredient after courage to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Some people just give up when others keep going, and that makes all the difference. All of society benefits, however, from the work that entrepreneurs and their teams do to bring the new common sense to life.
Welcome to Entrepreneur Country by Julie Meyer is out now, published by Constable and Robinson.