The more that people claim to be entrepreneurs, the less they seem to act like real entrepreneurs.
How do real entrepreneurs act? They take big risks to solve big problems that have never been solved before. They start real companies with real employees that make real products for real customers. They dream big, get their hands dirty, work their tails off and overcome enormous obstacles.
What real entrepreneurs don’t do is jump on the latest Internet craze because it doesn’t cost much, it requires minimal skill and everyone else is doing it. I’m referring to the hordes of digital marketers, content creators, app developers, professional coaches, gig workers and [fill in the latest fad] consultants.
Here’s a tip. You won’t get anywhere by doing what everyone else is doing. The world doesn’t need another food-delivery service, gaming app or smart fork. The world doesn’t need more YouTube stars, life coaches or Uber drivers. What the world does need is real entrepreneurs who can disrupt these age-old industries:
Have you ever built a home or been to a residential construction site? Archaic isn’t the word. If you could see the wood framing of your house, you’d find all sorts of hand-drawn calculations, labels and drawings. Half the time contractors don’t even bother with properly centered fixtures, right angles, straight walls and level floors.
You spend a fortune on architectural drawings and plans and yet contractors can’t seem to stick to them or your budget.
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Agronomy is where agriculture meets environmental science and technology. It’s a relatively small field with the potential to solve enormous problems.
Pests like the olive fruit fly, Xylella bacteria, and glassy-winged sharpshooter — a carrier of Pierce’s disease — are wiping out olive crops, citrus groves and vineyards in the Americas and Europe. To date, there’s no solution in sight.
These problems need someone like Rod Schneidmiller. Maybe you’ve seen his brightly colored RESCUE! yellowjacket traps at a park or in a hardware store. Schneidmiller is a true entrepreneur. Not only does he run a family-operated, 60-person business that does $20 million in annual revenue, but he holds patents on the trap’s design and chemical attractant. He’s also a second-generation agronomist.
That’s one problem solved without using harmful pesticides, with hundreds more to go.
We’ve come a long way since the Lost in Space robot’s cries of “Danger Will Robinson” back in the 60s, but not nearly as far as you’d expect. It’s hard to believe that iRobot spent 25 years coming up with machines to clean floors. We’ve got to do better than that, folks. (If only so Isaac Asimov can stop turning in his grave.)
The Internet of Things (IoT) and small, lightweight, low-cost computer chips, smart sensor networks, cameras and distance-sensing lasers have set the stage for the development of new kinds of robots in all sorts of fields, from manufacturing and agriculture to health care and senior care.
4. Real estate
Think Zillow, Trulia or realtor.com are big deals? Wait until someone has the smarts, guts and funding to bypass realtors and their ludicrous fees and come up with a peer-to-peer solution for buying and selling homes. There’s absolutely no reason to be beholden to such an outmoded system.
Once people get comfortable with the idea, there’ll be a need for all sorts of simplified, turnkey solutions for pricing and staging homes, negotiating and closing transactions, and connecting with local inspectors, contractors, lenders and escrow and title companies.
Commercial real estate is an even bigger opportunity for disruption.
5. Batteries and charging
The number one barrier to improving every electronic product – from smart wearables and laptops to handheld tools and electric cars – is battery technology. The current state-of-the-art in rechargeable batteries, Lithium Ion, has been around for 25 years. As tech goes, that’s pretty old. It’s time for something new, don’t you think?
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Thankfully, a new type of semiconductor chip – Gallium Nitride (GaN) – enables fast wireless charging that can eliminate power cords, once and for all. I’m not just talking about your electric toothbrush or smartwatch. I’m talking about anything that plugs into a wall socket. A TV, a refrigerator — even a Tesla. No kidding.
That means new standards and new designs for every one of those products, which spells opportunity.
Look, it’s a free country. Nobody can or should tell you what to do for a living. But if you think you have it in you to be an entrepreneur at least be a real one, not a digital clone.