One of the great trends we’ve been witnessing over the past decade has been what you might call the “democratization of entrepreneurship.” It’s powerful and will have a huge impact not just on the U.S. economy and workforce, but perhaps even more intensely on other areas of the world—particularly developing economies. There are four key underlying factors that underpin this shift that are worth noting:

1. Geographic boundaries are breaking down

Fundamentally, entrepreneurial communities are networks—not hierarchies. As such, they thrive best in open environments that lack artificial restrictions. They also thrive best when information sharing is free and when entrepreneurs have access to other entrepreneurs. In this way, entrepreneurial communities follow Metcalfe’s law of networks which states that the power of a network increases exponentially with the number of nodes in that network; thus, entrepreneurial communities are exponentially stronger as they add more entrepreneurs to their network.

Entrepreneurial communities are networks, not hierarchies. Tweet This Quote

The globalization of economies, combined with the free flow of information fostered by the internet and other media, have enabled entrepreneurs to establish connections that extend beyond traditional geographic boundaries and create virtual communities of peers where they once couldn’t exist.

2. Entrepreneurship is becoming more highly valued

While many societies have thought of themselves as entrepreneurial, it’s really only been in the past 10-15 years that entrepreneurs, as members of the creative class, have been truly celebrated. Once, striking out on one’s own was considered overly risky. Working in big companies, or in some cases state enterprise, was the path to job security and economic independence.

Acceptance of entrepreneurship is opening doors for many people around the world. Tweet This Quote

Now, in many parts of the world, entrepreneurship is embraced. This acceptance, and even celebration, of entrepreneurship is opening doors for many people around the world that were recently closed due to cultural and economic pressures.

3. Entrepreneurs don’t care about pedigree

Above, I referenced the belief that entrepreneurial communities are networks, not hierarchies. Openness, the free flow of information, the lack of community gatekeepers, and entrepreneurs as leaders are hallmarks of these networks (versus hierarchies that are closed, tend to have a small number of people who control access to the system, and where information flow is controlled and limited).

More and more, entrepreneurs are judged by their ideas, not their family name or university. Tweet This Quote

As a result, one of the fundamental tenants that underpins these networks is a decreased emphasis on pedigree, background and connections. While this hasn’t completely taken hold in all countries, in many places entrepreneurs are rightly judged by the strength of their ideas, the value they bring to the community and the success of their past efforts—not on their family name or where they attended school. This has opened the door for many entrepreneurs who 10 or 20 years ago would have found themselves cut off from the opportunities they have today.

4. Entrepreneurship focuses on giving first

One of the most powerful trends in support of the democratization of entrepreneurship has been the establishment of broad mentor networks that support entrepreneurial communities. These networks are aided by the trends noted above and stem from the fundamental belief that a larger and larger number of experienced entrepreneurs are embracing the idea of giving first, getting later. Ultimately, the best mentor relationships become two-way, but the initial expectation of the mentor needs to be that they’re participating first to give with no expectation of anything they’ll personally take away—other than the satisfaction of helping out.

A larger number of experienced entrepreneurs are embracing the idea of giving first, getting later. Tweet This Quote

The development of these mentor ecosystems—bolstered by the rise around the world of accelerator programs—has allowed entrepreneurs greater access to advice and counsel. This helps create better entrepreneurs and more vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Fundamentally, the world benefits from the democratization of entrepreneurship as more people look to themselves as the engine to grow beyond their circumstances. Importantly, this phrase works in reverse as well—entrepreneurship promotes democratization. Entrepreneurs value the stable systems that democracy tends to bring—they see themselves (and not government) as the answer to their societies’ challenges, they provide jobs and economic stability, and they work in networks that by their nature are more democratic than hierarchical.

I don’t have a crystal ball, and I don’t know exactly what the next 20 or 50 years will bring. But I do believe that the global trend towards entrepreneurship will continue and that the world will be much better for it.


A version of this post originally published on UNREASONABLE.is on June 24, 2013. It has been updated and reposted to inspire further conversation.

About the author

Seth Levine

Seth Levine

Seth is a Boulder, CO based technology investor and managing director at Foundry Group. His career spans venture capital investing as well as operational, transactional and advisory roles at both public and private companies.