It sounds so simple. Be the one to pick out the new Elon Musk, invest in them, and follow their meteoric rise.
The thing is, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow are probably the ones nobody has even heard of yet. There’s dozens of articles devoted to picking out the brightest new stars in the firmament, and yet half the subjects of these articles are never heard from again. Some of them are overhyped, and end up being victims of their own success as people expect too much from them, and tune out as soon as they fail to deliver even the smallest of outcomes. Others just didn’t plan for their popularity, and don’t know how to harness it. And others succeed, but you’re already too late to share in their success.
So instead of giving you another list of names, here are our tips for picking out the bright sparks of the entrepreneurial world for yourself.
Get in on the ground floor:
- Look locally. Who is starting up something unique in your area? How is their business going? And is it transferable to other areas? Chances are, if something’s successful in London, it’ll be successful in the other big cosmopolitan cities of the world. Look for the brains behind that kind of project.
- Give someone a nudge. If you know of someone who has an amazing business that just needs to be expanded, let them know what you think. Maybe nothing will come of it – maybe they’ll take the opportunity. Nothing lost, and potentially everything to gain.
Look for something new:
- New technology? Wherever there’s new technology, there’s potential for someone new to come in and shake things up.
- New needs? Suddenly, the market is crying out for something – or even better, it isn’t yet, but you can see it coming. Find the person who is already setting themselves up to deliver. If there’s suddenly a push for an environmentally conscious new trend in technology, for example, you can bet that the person who is ready to expand into that area is going to be worth keeping an eye on.
Look for brilliance:
- Young and hungry. Look for young people, or teams of young people, who have everything to prove. They’ve got their PhDs – or whatever they need – and now they’re ready to change the world. These are the people who have all the tools, and they’re also the perfect audience for all kinds of innovations – they know what young people want.
- Persistent. Look for the people who won’t be deterred. If their first idea didn’t work, they come straight back with something new. Obviously you don’t want to put your bets on someone who fails at everything they try, but look for people with promising ideas that just didn’t come at the right time. They’ve got experience now, and they’re coming back for more even though it didn’t work out. These are the people who can keep their heads above water in challenging times.
- Charisma. It isn’t everything, but if someone can make you sit up and listen, then you won’t be alone. Other people are going to listen to them too. If you listen critically and you’re still wowed, then these people have something that will convince others to use their product, invest in their product, and make them a success.
Where do you find these people? That’s probably the most burning question on your mind, and the answer is deceptively simple: everywhere you look. The important thing is to look for them, to actively keep your mind open to ideas. There’s always room to keep your eyes on the industry standards, the people everyone is looking at, and you only need to check the internet to have whole lists of those.
But the real winners are the surprises, the ones who come out of left field.
- Hacker spaces. The word hacker might bring up the image of a twenty-something in his parents’ basement, but the fact is that hacker spaces are communities which encourage innovation and experimentation.
- Conferences. Talk to people, even if they don’t come from a company you know or have a name you recognize. A lot of the time, you’ll just have to nod and smile. But sometimes, you’ll hear an idea that zaps your brain. “Why don’t we have that already?”
- Universities and schools. It’s where the smartest people are training. It might be a couple of years before these kids are ready to really change the world, but it’s also a hugely productive time for creative thinking and startling ideas.
- Kickstarter. Sure, there are projects that never get funded, ideas that never really get off the ground, and campaigns that barely deliver on their original promises. But there are also young entrepreneurs just poised to get their start.
The truth is, it’s difficult to know where to place your bets. The world moves fast these days, in the internet age, and the next big shake-up is probably coming from a direction almost no one expected. But if you keep your eyes open, you could be the one who sees it coming.