By Carol Realini (Serial Entrepreneur & World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer)
Great entrepreneurs build companies with the future in mind. So it goes without saying that women entrepreneurs can’t afford to be naïve or blind to the business transformation that is happening today. It is critical to understand that we are entering a new phase of business – "the Exponential Age."
What does that mean? To understand this, first you must understand that never before has there been so much reach with 6.9 billion mobile connections. From 2008-2015 mobile high-speed connections grew 10X allowing over 2 billion mobile devices to access the internet. Blink and that number will be 5 billion. This means 3 billion new minds are coming online ready to learn, engage, contribute – these people along with all of us traditional online participants will be part of the new global innovation community. Together we will create a new era where changes happen faster than ever.
All of us have grown up in a linear world – thinking 10% growth is aggressive growth. But what happens when 10% becomes 10X? With recent examples of the exponential growth rates of Facebook, Groupon, Uber, Airbnb and WhatsApp, it is clear we are witnessing rapid change and growth. So our linear minds need to evolve to think exponential and act with leverage beyond our own organization's capabilities.
This Changes Everything
This changes everything. It creates lots of mega opportunities, but also makes it critical to raise expectations about how fast we move and how quickly we scale. And with cloud computing, mobile everywhere, social marketing and crowdsourcing, this momentum has never been so achievable since traditional barriers to building and scaling new businesses are melting away.
Leverage is key – if AirBnb needed to build hotels, they would have never scaled to be so relevant. Instead they figured out how to leverage supply that was already there by connecting travelers with homeowners that wanted to share their spaces for extra money. Since its launch in 2008, Airbnb has grown its market share tremendously. It now exceeds 10 million bookings and is used by more than 50,000 renters per night, with about 1,000 new hosts joining its network daily.
If Uber took a traditional approach to limo’s and taxis then they would have to buy cars and deploy them. Instead they designed a lean infrastructure that allowed them to enter more than 60 markets, ranging from the company's hometown of San Francisco to Berlin and Tokyo. In about three and a half years they have grown to $200 million a year in revenue not counting what they remit to the drivers. Leverage for entrepreneurs is about figuring out your unique value and marrying that with other resources or companies to build your business.
Leverage for established companies is about supplementing their own capabilities and partnering with innovators in a variety of ways. These established companies can collaborate by providing distribution and marketplaces (like Apple App Store and Google Play), strategic relationships to provide joint offerings (like Visa and Monetize, Square and JPMC), or acquisitions like Facebook and WhatsApp. These may look like "one offs", but I think they are instead the template for how business is done in the Exponential Age.
How to Win in the Exponential Age
We have seen whole industries transform quickly. Television, video, and music all have undergone dramatic and rapid change. Various industries are teed up to follow – but who will be the winners, who will be the losers? And more important, where are the big WhatsApp-like opportunities? And how can women entrepreneurs participate in this transformation?
In the Exponential Age smart, established companies will find ways to work with innovators vs. looking only internally for new products and services. Smart investors will make bets on women entrepreneurs. And of course, passionate women entrepreneurs will dream big, work smart, and move fast.
What else do companies and founders need to do to prepare for the exponential age?
Want articles from the Influencer Network to come straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter. About the guest blogger: Carol Realini (@carolrealini) is a successful serial entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer. She was the founder and CEO of Obopay and Chordiant. Before that she was part of the early executive team at Legato. Carol advises and speaks around the world about entrepreneurship, banking for all, and women in technology.