You’re on the move, with your business—your life, your livelihood—in the palm of your hand; where you go, it goes.
The scene, let’s say, is OR Tambo International Airport. Boarding gates; laptop slung in a bag over your shoulder; people for Africa. You may look alone in the crowd. But not so: Equipped with your smartphone, you’re a roving hub of multitasking, cross-territorial communication. On voice, you’re doling out sweet charm and banana oil to a prospect in Addis Ababa; in and among this, emailing a client in Amsterdam, paying a restless supplier in Durban by EFT, and texting a colleague in Cape Town to ask politely where on earth his paperwork is (“R U out surfing, dude?”). Take a selfie for the kids—it’s all for them, anyway—and bin the Styrofoam coffee. The plane lifts off, up and away, questing on.
It’s a fact: Digital technology is breaking through the barriers of geography and time with ever increasing speed. In the process, this is changing the face of whom we do business with and where, when and how we do it, and leading to the rise of a new force in the game—the digital entrepreneur.
Who is this person? The answer is important to know. It’s no longer that stereotype of the 1980s, the braying computer nerd. Nor is it only the dot-com tycoon of the 1990s, or the Y2K–era, tech-talking gadget geek in a goatee. And the digital entrepreneur isn’t simply a guy or gal blogging to build the biz or selling wares on an e-commerce website.
Nowadays, nearly all businesses are digital in nature, to one degree or another. They’re out there using computers, networking with each other on the Internet and, more and more, deploying smartphones as portable flight decks on which to collaborate—co-ordinating and advancing the growth of the enterprise across its many physical and virtual points of presence.
For long, the tendency has been to think of technology as a separate, even if key, aspect of a business. The truth is that it’s cutting across, and enhancing, everything else, from financial and human resource management to sales and marketing and field service—and all the time getting easier to use.
So, who is this rising digital entrepreneur? Whether you realise it or not, and whether you’ve embraced your secret identity or are only starting out, it’s you, the business owner. You. We. Us.