About this Entrepreneurship course
This is a free entrepreneurship course covering five topics. In this course, you’ll be introduced to a general overview, history, and a roundup of current developments in entrepreneurship. You’ll also explore what’s on the horizon as well as both current problems and opportunities in the field. And since there is deep value in practicality, this course ends with a “next steps” section for entrepreneurs.
- What Is Entrepreneurship?
- History of Entrepreneurship
- Future of Entrepreneurship
- Challenges & Opportunities in Entrepreneurship
- Next Steps for Entrepreneurs
This free online entrepreneurship course directs you toward free videos, podcasts, and resources coupled with questions to aid in processing this exciting field. Each section is created to encompass two to three hours of learning material.
Whenever you see this icon, it is time to stop and watch, listen, read, or reflect.
At the end of each section in this course is an opportunity for to invest further. These suggestions offer books, courses, or certifications within a wide range of financial and time investments, to further studies and enrichment in the field of Entrepreneurship.
1│What Is Entrepreneurship?
The term entrepreneur is a big one. It brings to mind everything from a guy selling strange inventions from his garage to Steve Jobs to your friend who is starting a bakery down the block. So, let’s define what we’re talking about when we say “entrepreneur.” An entrepreneur is a person who decides to take on the risk of an enterprise that they have organized and manage. More precisely, French economist Jean-Baptiste Say defined it as a person who moved resources or capital from old and inefficient models to more productive and high-yielding ones. But then, as is the nature of entrepreneurship, it’s probably fair to say the definition is always changing.
Types of Entrepreneurship
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say entrepreneurship is creating and launching a new business. Entrepreneurs are change-agents and innovators. According to entrepreneur Steve Blank, entrepreneurial work exists in four different realms: small businesses, scalable startups, large companies, and social enterprises. Most entrepreneurs are small businesses; these are the people who open a dry cleaner, start their own landscaping company, or run a family deli with the goal of feeding the family, as it were. While the company may grow, it will likely always remain a small business. Scalable startups, on the other hand, are designed with growth in mind from the outset. A profitable business model for an entrepreneur in this realm is if their idea can be scaled up from a small business to a large company.
Large companies can also get into entrepreneurship. Large companies make way for entrepreneurship when they create new divisions inside their already established company, usually as a way to make the parent company more agile in an emerging market. Lastly, social entrepreneurship is focused on solving problems around the social, environmental, cultural, or humanitarian issues rather than generating profit.
The thing about entrepreneurship is that really anyone can do it; you just need the right idea.
Amy Wilkinson at Stanford’s Graduate School of Businesses spoke with over 200 top entrepreneurs across the world and industries. From the data she collected, she came up with six skills needed to create and implement a new idea into a business. Listen to this short lecture and identify where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
These six skills Wilkinson talks about all point to the idea of an entrepreneurial mindset. Watch Linda Zhang’s TedTalk about an entrepreneurial mindset. She talks about this question, “What problems do you care about solving?” Take a moment to either start processing this question or clarify your answer to this question.
Essentially, having this mindset of an entrepreneur means that problems aren’t roadblocks, but rather aspects of interest. They are opportunities to create solutions. This is why entrepreneurship is at its core innovation. Listen to this Hack the Entrepreneur podcast on Finding a Solution to every Problem. Kenneth Aldrich talks about shifting your mindset when you reach barriers. What current obstacles can you identify as opportunities to shift your perspective?
Regardless of what kind of entrepreneur you are, these desires to explore and problem-solve are vital for success.
The Importance of Entrepreneurs
As we said before, entrepreneurs are agents of change. This is especially true in the capitalist system because entrepreneurs create new opportunities for profit. The creation of these new areas of profit often also turn into employment, creating a ripple effect through the economy, no matter how small they initially seem. They also spur innovation in more established companies by creating competition. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, in today’s climate, entrepreneurs can be revolutionaries by breaking with established systems.
What are you passionate about?
Are there problems you see that spark curiosity in you?
What solutions can you imagine for these problems?
What are you willing to risk to solve these problems?
Do you possess qualities that would serve you well as an entrepreneur?
As you think about your entrepreneurial “why,” these 120 entrepreneurial blogs can help guide your exploration.
There’s nothing like hearing about entrepreneurship from one of the foremost names in the field directly. Guy Kawasaki was Apple’s chief evangelist for the Macintosh computer in the 1980s. In this four-hour course, Kawasaki explores what it means to be an entrepreneur.
2│History of Entrepreneurship
While the word conjures to mind bright, new ideas, entrepreneurship itself is ancient. Read through this short overview on the history of entrepreneurship. Does looking at entrepreneurship as an ancient art change the way you view business today?
The World’s First Entrepreneurs
It’s not unreasonable to call ancient traders entrepreneurs since those first relationships directly changed the systems the traders were part of. Moving forward, the domestication of animals and plants can be viewed as another entrepreneurial feat, again wholly revolutionizing the way people lived, allowing them to plant roots (no pun intended) and stay in one place. This led to the creation of new roles for people.
While entrepreneurship can seem like a daunting idea, full of talk of investors and marketing, at its core, it is the creation of a new way to live, as ancient traders and farmers show us. The Iron Age brought, for better or worse, new ways to wage war and the establishment of empires, complex political structures, and what are the world’s largest religions of today. Then humans began to replace the barter system with money, making trade easier, eventually leading to the creation of markets and capitalism.
Entrepreneurship in the 1700s – 1900s
Entrepreneurship, as we define it today, is generally directly linked to capitalism. The Global Entrepreneurship Institute lays out a brief evolution of the idea of entrepreneurship within the bounds of capitalism based on the work of Richard Cantillon, Jean-Baptist Say, and Adam Smith in the 1700s. Cantillon, who was an Irish-French economist, said that an entrepreneur was one who was known to make decisions about gaining and using resources despite the known risk involved. In the 1920s, the term entrepreneur was coined from the French, which had been used as a loan word since the 1850s.
Moving forward, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in the 1940s coined the term creative destruction as a way to look at entrepreneurship through the lens of taking down established systems to make way for innovation. Said “creative destruction” is what Schumpeter considered to be responsible for long-term growth in the economy. Interestingly, Schumpeter did not consider an entrepreneur to be a risk-taker because an ever-changing environment meant that there’s always new information for an entrepreneur to cash in on. It was also in the 1700s that the Industrial Revolution helped spur on the idea of mass production. Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford, and Carnegie were innovators and businessmen who revolutionized how we do business even today.
21st Century Entrepreneurship
It was in the 2000s that entrepreneurship began to reach past its typically purely capitalist pursuits and into the realm of social entrepreneurship. This was also when the idea of a large company spinning off into a new division or smaller company to innovate began. According to John Elkington of Volans and Pamela Hartigan, former director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, most social entrepreneurship falls under one of three models: leveraged nonprofit, hybrid nonprofit, or social business venture. There are also models where a business invests some of its profits into what is sometimes referred to as philanthropreneurship.
For a perspective on entrepreneurship today, watch the 2019 State of Entrepreneurship address put out by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Watch with a pen in hand and write down one thought or idea that inspires you and one actionable item for your immediate future.
In 2008, the Global Entrepreneurship Week was established. This annual week is intended to teach people about the benefits of entrepreneurship and encourage them to take part in entrepreneurial endeavors. Today there are over 35,000 events in over 170 countries. See if there’s an event coming up near you and consider participating in this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Pick up a copy of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship by Joe Carlen. This book lays out how individuals’ pursuit of profit overturn accepted, standard, and ingrained conventions, technology, laws, and norms, and as a result, upend civilizations and transformed societies. Carlen explores the impact of entrepreneurship on everything from colonization to your laptop. He goes back to Mesopotamia’s market economy, ancient trade routes across continents, and the invention of paper money in China through the tea trade. This book explores both the positive revolutionizing of entrepreneurship and the darker truths that come in the pursuit of profit.
3│Future of Entrepreneurship
New technologies are continually changing how we do business. But they are also opening doors for entrepreneurs by providing new venture opportunities. Here are some of the most prominent technologies coming over the horizon that will shape the landscape of the future and give entrepreneurs new avenues to explore.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
As a quick primer, essentially, machine learning teaches artificial intelligence to teach itself. Today, we are seeing AI and ML become more and more present parts of the business by revolutionizing processes, many of which we take for granted, for better or worse.
In India and other parts of the world, machine learning is being used to help solve deeply entrenched social issues in areas like healthcare. Another widely used example of the implementation of these technologies is in the curation of content and, often, the subsequent recommendations – think Netflix or Amazon.
Watch this video by MIT on AI and ML Innovation and Entrepreneurship. A common fear is that AI will replace our jobs, but realistically, what AI is typically good at are taking over tasks, which helps free people up for more in-depth and more creative jobs. How do the opportunities and challenges discussed affect entrepreneurship moving forward?
As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to find ways to maximize the value of what you offer since usually, funding is limited. Often this means minimizing time, streamlining processes, and improving user experience. That’s where DevOps comes in. Still a relatively new idea, especially outside the tech industry, DevOps is a portmanteau of development and operations. Essentially, DevOps sets out to improve the relationship between the two by creating better systems of communication and collaboration.
Automating critical systems helps organizations stay up to speed and cuts down on human error and frees up people-power to other areas, often more creativity-driven ones, that are a value-add. DevOps, like most entrepreneurial endeavors, create a shift in long-held ideas of how things should be done. Historically, DevOps has required specialized skills to implement successfully. However, as the field grows, more tools are being created that make deploying DevOps easier, allowing more and more businesses to benefit from it.
No Code Software
No code software is increasing in popularity because it allows entrepreneurs without coding or development skills to make software without needing to know how to code. Listen to this podcast on the No Code Movement. Since many problems these days can be solved with a software solution, providing more avenues for no code software means entrepreneurs can be empowered to create new products to solve those problems without needing the technical experience that was once required. How has no code software already impacted your future endeavors?
Less Job Creation
The revolution in entrepreneurship that is made possible by new technological innovations has paved the way for an extraordinary business model – an ever-growing number of lucrative businesses with neither employees nor investors. Now it’s possible to outsource or automate nearly everything (often with the help of DevOps, AI, and ML) that businesses can be run single-handedly for much longer than was previously possible. It’s an exciting development, this idea that there can be growth in companies with a much smaller increase in new job creation.
Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is a podcast from Stanford University with interviews with today’s top entrepreneurs. In this episode with Elon Musk, this entrepreneurial visionary shares his predictions for the future, from artificial intelligence to space exploration. As you listen to the podcast interview, take note of Musk’s rationale for these predictions. What entrepreneurial qualities do you hear? Do you think his predictions will come to pass, or do you have other ideas?
Beyond this free entrepreneurship course, explore some of these growing developments further. Enroll in a machine learning course from Stanford, earn an IBM applied AI professional certification, or dive more deeply into the culture and mindset of DevOps.
4│Challenges & Opportunities in Entrepreneurship
The challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship are often two sides of the same coin. Here are a few to consider.
Watch this TedTalk by Melvin Poh on the Evolution of Entrepreneurship. He discusses how in the past couple of decades, entrepreneurship has drastically evolved because of new technologies that have dismantled many barriers of starting a business, leveling the playing field. Namely, less capital is needed to launch an enterprise effectively; no longer is it necessary to be a millionaire (or have access to millions) because of open source software, online stores, and the ease of remote work. Consider how would your entrepreneur venture or idea would have looked different if you would have started 50 years ago?
Technology has created crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, which take all the risk of investment off of just a few investors and disperses it among many smaller investors. Networking is critical here as new entrepreneurs often must consider as many sources of funding as they can to get their venture off the ground.
Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration and try to identify the top possible modes of funding for your next venture.
Entrepreneurship can be a stress-filled, lonely road. Most entrepreneurs start while also working full-time, which means that working on an all-consuming new venture is done in the time usually spent with friends and loved ones. Time is spent wearing many hats and thinking about where the money and clients are going to come from. This time can often be very isolating, especially if you have yet to hire any employees. Even for those entrepreneurs whose ventures grow, the pressure of making things work and keeping your enterprise healthy can easily stress out the sagest, laid-back, and with-it businessperson. Additionally, as technology continues to play an even more significant part in many entrepreneurial endeavors, physical isolation is even more palpable.
This issue of disconnection and loneliness, however, led George Morrison to create The OneFifty, which is an online community of seasoned entrepreneurs. This platform provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to gain feedback, insight, and connection through things like cohort groups and remote networking events. To combat the issue of physical distance, members of The OneFifty commit to being present regularly on the platform. Not only does Morrison’s company provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to improve a common issue, but it’s also an excellent example of entrepreneurship itself.
A Million Ways to Do It
Being an entrepreneur has a lot of allure – from the possibility of hitting gold to the pleasure of being your boss. It’s easy to see why many people are intrigued by this path. Some set off with an apparent problem they want to solve, a mission to accomplish. But others are just looking for something new. The good news is, there are so many different types of businesses an entrepreneur can start, often with little risk or investment on the outset.
Read through this list of 75 cheap or free businesses that entrepreneurs can start. Is there any idea that you could implement to help your greater business vision become a reality?
Rural entrepreneurship isn’t necessarily two words you often hear together, but it is an area with immense opportunity. According to the Small Business Majority, in the United States, there are higher levels of rural entrepreneurship than urban, and those rural entrepreneurs are more likely to survive in their first five years, despite the struggle of recovery from the Great Recession. Around two-thirds of new rural jobs come from rural entrepreneurship, which is incredibly high.
While rural entrepreneurs seem optimistic about the state of their local economies, it’s not because there is a lack of risk. Rural entrepreneurs have a harder time accessing capital, especially in its more traditional forms, often don’t have enough skilled workers to hire as businesses grow, and have grave concerns about healthcare. Nevertheless, rural entrepreneurs speak to the spirit of innovation, challenge, and creativity of the field and have the possibility of revitalizing non-urban areas.
Watch this TedTalk by entrepreneur Emma Bridgewater. Consider how entrepreneurship has changed your community?
While it’s never a fun thing to think about, as an entrepreneur, what are some ways you could mitigate the challenges of decision fatigue, loneliness, and anxiety? Are there healthy habits you practice now that can help carry you through the toughest times? Or consider what things you might want to implement before starting your venture to help ensure success.
The world of entrepreneurship is full of challenges as well as opportunities, so it’s always nice to have some help along the way. This free online entrepreneurship course is a great first step. A good next step for serious entrepreneurs is the Small Giants Leadership Academy, which offers a one-year certificate course that helps entrepreneurial leaders develop and grow with support from the community. The program is cohort-based, consisting of virtual classes as well as in-person meetings and events. Small Giants also has a vast selection of podcasts, blog posts, discussion-based webinars, and virtual peer groups.
5│Next Steps for Entrepreneurs
Paul Tasner talks about what it was like becoming an entrepreneur at age 66. After being fired from his job as an operations director and retirement not on the table, he saw an opening in the market as an opportunity and launched his startup with a combination of passion and experience. What aspects of his story can you identify with?
Identify Your Why
Listen to this podcast with Entrepreneur Lyn Christian. She gives insight on the chance to explore and reinvent. Take a moment to ask questions. What inspires you? What would make your life more comfortable or more enjoyable? Is there a problem you want to solve? Consider what you already know, either from experience or education, and see what you can use as leverage. Also, take some time to find other successful organizations that you admire and emulate them.
Nathalie Lussier is a successful entrepreneur who has started several enterprises. Listen to how she pivoted from one area to another with success. What mindset or practices can you put in place to become more responsive and sustainable as an entrepreneur?
Identify Your Users
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to know who you’re doing this whole thing for. You’ll learn how to actually run your startup as you go, but not knowing your client sets you up for a much more significant challenge. It is just as important is knowing what value you are bringing to your customers. Will people pay for what you’re selling? It’s essential to identify your target market outside your circle of friends and family.
Create a Plan
Most entrepreneurship, as previously discussed, involves personal financial risk. You are most likely your first investor, and this means your personal and professional lives are inextricably intertwined. This being the case, you’ll want to be sure you have a healthy business plan in place and a solid handle on your finances. What kind of startup funds you need depends on the size and scope of the enterprise you’re trying to launch. A lifestyle business and a tech company will require different amounts and types of funding. You don’t need to know everything right off the bat, because things will inevitably change frequently. But you should have a handle on your expenses and your anticipated cash flow.
Once you have your why, target audience, and an idea of how much this whole thing will cost, make sure you’re able to articulate what you’re doing persuasively and succinctly to others. Peter Thiel, one of the co-founders of PayPal, has made his pitch deck template available. This is an excellent exercise to work through and eventually pitch to investors. Read through his template and start mapping out your next entrepreneurial idea.
Udacity offers a course taught by entrepreneur Steve Banks that take new entrepreneurs through how to build a startup. This course is entirely free and should take about a month to complete. You’ll learn about business models, value proposition, customer relationships, distribution channels, revenue sectors, partners, and more as you are led through how to develop and test ideas quickly.
Use this free entrepreneurship course as a jumping off point and continue your education with a few books and manuals written by established entrepreneurs who are experts in the field.
Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank is similar to the Udacity course above. This book covers how to find a good fit for a business, how to find and keep customers, and how to spur on growth to help build a successful, scalable company. It can also be used in conjunction with The Startup Owner’s Manual Founder’s Workbook.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries walks you through how to make a business that is both capital-efficient and effectively creative by using concepts from lean manufacturing.
This is the end of our free online entrepreneurship course. We hope it gives you a good background on the topic!