October 25, 2014

Tom Ehrenfeld, The Startup Garden…final installment

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In this, our third post, we wrap up Day #4 of the Business Blog Book Tour. Our guest today has been Tom Ehrenfeld, author of The Start-up Garden. Tom answers the final two trends questions we posed to him. 
 
(Remember to scroll down two posts to see the first entry in this series.)

Small Business Trends Question #5:  Will the Internet support entrepreneurs and help them be more successful? How?

Tom Ehrenfeld:  I’d like to think the Internet will support entrepreneurs and help them be more successful. What does the Internet do best? Form communities. Spread news. Make connections. Help educate folks with information they might not otherwise have access to.

In each of these categories I see some baby steps being made, but unfortunately, and this would take too long to go into, I fear that virtually every beneficial trend of the Internet in this regard carries negative consequences that are harmful or counterproductive.  Okay, let’s consider a few areas.

  • Information is now more widely available – but I am appalled at how many people – students for example – who believe that doing a Google search on a topic turns up an objective and comprehensive search for real data.
  • Or communities – while it’s nice to quickly form communities online, I think this is a very self-selecting and often solipsistic crowd. 
  • Finally, one trend in the Internet particularly concerns me, and that is the increasing concentration of thoughts and ideas to a few leaders, none of whom particularly thrill me. Look at the blog world. While on the one hand I love it, the degree of blogrolling concerns me – it’s this “small worlds” effect in which the leading players end up generating a disproportionately large amount of mutual links and buzz and attention, and the best ideas on the net become simply the ones with the most links….

Small Business Trends Question #6:  Will the Internet become a superhighway for the big established enterprises and make it harder for startups to merge successfully into the flow of commerce, or will it increase access for startups, or will it do both? Who wins and who loses, and how do they win or lose?

Tom Ehrenfeld:  You could certainly say that the Internet has made big companies smaller and small ones bigger.

I think that in some arenas the net amplifies the advantages of big companies (i.e., anything concerning legal battles or the need to fund investments or to leverage existing relationships.) Moreover, the big companies with bigger resources and the patience to sit out trends will often swoop in and capitalize (IBM may not always be first with new products but it certainly knows how to last).

On the other hand, the really smart and focused small players really can use the Internet to form lasting and valuable relationships with customers as long as they find ways to continue to deliver value, plain and simple.

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Thanks to Tom Ehrenfeld for sharing his insights from his book The Start-up Garden. The book is out of print, but you can purchase copies at 1-800-CEO-READ.

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Tom Ehrenfeld




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