This morning we attended a keynote on Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age with Google’s Bridgette Sexton to kick off our coverage of Social Media Week. Sexton is the Global Entrepreneurship Manager at Google. This position allows her to stay on top of up-and-coming entrepreneurial companies around the world while providing them with mentorship and connections to talent. During her mission to facilitate Google’s entrepreneurial impact on a global scale, Sexton has helped expand Google’s reach to about 20 countries.
She has seen first hand the recent evolution of entrepreneurship and how the digital revolution has changed the entrepreneurial community. The digital age has redefined what an entrepreneur is—You no longer need money or backing to succeed. Today the market is increasingly global and competitive.
The pace of innovation has never been faster. An explosion of digital information, combined with lower barriers to enter the entrepreneurial community, has leveled the playing field. It’s easier to get started on the entrepreneurial track and find business partners thanks to events like Startup Weekend and co-working spaces like 1871 in Chicago. Due to the increased ease of entry, it is more important than ever that entrepreneurs work hard to differentiate themselves and their business.
Here are some tips we gathered from Sexton on how to succeed as an entrepreneur in the digital age:
1. Take advantage of the resources a co-working space provides
A lack of office space often prohibits people from starting a business. Co-working spaces solve this problem while giving you a place where you can easily collaborate. “This is changing the pace that businesses are created and how quickly businesses iterate because they have access to great resources,” Sexton said.
2. Use free services to monetize your business
Sexton encourages entrepreneurs to promote their businesses though one of the many free services that have recently cropped up. “Now there are platforms for every entrepreneur to get out there and be successful without hiring a salesman and a team to build their website,” she said. Sites that help anyone monetize or sell their skills online (like TaskRabbit and ModCloth) are examples of these new platforms.
3. Use crowdfunding to keep your equity
These aspiring entrepreneurs can also benefit from crowdfunding, a platform that gives your product a global stage and lets the world be your funder. Sexton points out that crowdfunding can help with later investment because it lets you keep your equity and stay in control. “You are going to have a harder time scaling your business and getting investors if you have given away your equity,” Sexton said.
4. Invest in the global mobile market
As mobile devices continue to become smarter and more personable they are also becoming more affordable. According to Sexton, 67 percent of Google Play revenue is coming from outside the U.S. Statistics like this support the belief that entrepreneurs need to consider a global market.
5. Recognize innovation can come from anywhere
To boost innovation, create a forum for open, honest and respectful communication where employees can voice their opinions. It’s important to allow anyone in your company to have direct access to the people making the big decisions. “Hire great people and give them the chance to innovate. This will help them guide your business,” Sexton said.
6. Be a data-driven entrepreneur
Making data driven decisions is key to helping your business grow. Take advantage of the available data and use it to find out what works best. Small data-driven changes can have a huge impact on the success of a business. “Feelings don’t matter the same way as data,” Sexton said. She recommends using Google Analytics for traffic statistics and Google AdWords to help improve SEO and hone in on your target market.
7. Make product advocates part of your team
Understand who your advocates are and use them to engage with community. Once you find these influencers, work hard to keep them engaged. If someone loves your product they will be productive for you, making your product a part of their life and sharing it with their friends.