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The Rise of the Entrepreneurial Class

The “great democratization of the start-up era” has arrived. What are you waiting for?

Economist Lester Thurow has described entrepreneurs as “the change agents of capitalism.” That certainly seems to be the case as the explosion in entrepreneurial activity over the past two decades has ushered in a new area of business. In this Smith Business Insight TALKS presentation filmed at Queen’s Grant Hall, Elspeth Murray offers a look back at the roots of entrepreneurship and a look ahead at the forces diving the start-up economy. Murray is associate dean of the MBA and Masters programs and CIBC Faculty Fellow in Entrepreneurship at Smith School of Business.

Video Highlights

2:12     At the time when Bill Gates started Microsoft, in 1975, it was not cool to be an entrepreneur. Still, entrepreneurship has an honourable history: individuals were creating value in their own enterprises since the beginning of the craft age in the ninth century. The ideas of Cantillon, Smith, and Schumpeter joined with the evolution of finance to lay the groundwork for today’s entrepreneurs.

11:44     Up until 20 or so years ago, entrepreneurs were held back by a number of forces. Before the era of the internet, finding ideas was difficult. It was a challenge hiring talent, securing cash, or building corporate infrastructure to support basic business functions such as taking payments and accessing markets.

14:20     Attitudes to entrepreneurship have changed dramatically. A survey by Intuit, for example, found that Millennials are twice as likely to start a business as the average Canadian; 78 percent expressed interest in becoming entrepreneurs, as they see the barriers to entry disappearing.

18:20     These days, it is easy to get start-up capital from crowdfunding sites such as like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Peer-to-peer lending “is taking off like a rocket.” You can quickly set up an online storefront using Shopify or go global with Alibaba. “This is the great democratization of the start-up era. Every barrier is being taken down one by one.”