What will people need in the future, and how can I create a business plan and market a product that addresses this need?
On Saturday, May 30th, 46 young entrepreneurs presented their business plans at the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow awards ceremony, showing amazing innovation in answering this question. The event was the fifth or sixth of its type that I have attended, and, as always, I was astounded by the quality of the young entrepreneurs’ presentations. I remain impressed by all the work I saw, and am especially encouraged by the number of young women entrepreneurs presenting their plans.
The creativity and dedication that the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow competition highlights leaves me confident that the competitors will find and hopefully implement business ideas that we, at the beginning of the 21st century, can only begin to imagine. And this competition is just one of many examples of the strong and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit of the youth in the Rhein-Main area.
These promising young entrepreneurs are students who have gone above and beyond academic requirements to pursue their passion and talent. But, as students, they have spent most of their lives listening to old people – geezers.
This is problematic. While I don’t mean to tell students to disregard teachers and children to disregard parents, we can’t foresee what tomorrow’s entrepreneurs will need to know even 10-20 years from now. For young entrepreneurs, that’s the good news: don’t spend all your time listening to geezers. As the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow competition shows, young people can produce outstanding work with their own ingenuity.
But there’s bad news as well. Tomorrow’s entrepreneurs don’t know what they will need to know 10-20 years from now, either. For example, the iPad was first marketed only five years ago, and some questioned its usefulness. Now many people, including myself, can’t imagine life without one!
To quote former a US Secretary of Defense, there are “known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.” And unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) for the young entrepreneurs of today, almost everything we need to know in 2045 falls in the last category of unknown unknowns.
Thankfully, we can prepare for these daunting unknown unknowns: we can learn how to quickly adapt to, and see the opportunities in, changes and new developments nobody can predict. Learning to be an entrepreneur is basically that skill – learning to discover new products and services for people in a world in which technologies, markets, trends, and tastes change at an ever faster pace.
As Steve Jobs said: “This is what customers pay us for – to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”
Learning the unknown is certainly not easy. But the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow competition demonstrates the potential of the young entrepreneurs in the Rhein-Main area to develop innovative and promising business ideas and to cultivate Germany’s entrepreneurial spirit. I look forward to seeing what today’s young entrepreneurs accomplish in tomorrow’s world.