The majority of start-ups are not going to be the next Facebook, Groupon, Amazon, or even Friendster. In reality, there is a finite space in different tech industries for major players, and after a period of growth and adoption, most have their handful of most popular choices, and then the slew of others, the niche appeals, the specialized, the “also ran”s. The prominent misconcept though is that every new company needs to aim for being the biggest, the 300 pound gorilla of their chosen field. Most of the news and media you find related to entrepreneurship is fixated on the creation of these giant growth corporations, but some of the most interesting activity is happening on the small scale, where people are choosing to start local, more artisanal businesses, where the focus is quality and story, and not international commerce and margin. This is part of the outgrowth of the DIY makers movement, a movement that is growing in numbers and power as more people become disillusioned with the systems around us. It is about localization, independence, quality, sense of ownership, and a slew of other qualities that have slowly been leached out of the mainstream marketplace. This mentality seems especially prominent amongst those under 30, who grew up in the US while factories were closing or already nonexistent, and products were cheap, disposable, and meaningless. They worked hard, went to college, got jobs, and now have dealt with recessions, have lost their jobs, and have generally watched the failure of the systems that they were brought up to believe in. So now they are starting their own businesses, businesses that are the antithesis of the multinational corporations that they are protesting while Occupying Wall Street, businesses that pride themselves on being local, transparent, and authentic. Filmmaker Keef has started a film series called Made By Hand where he profiles some of these companies, the first of which is Breuckelen Distilling Company, the first distillery in NYC since Prohibition.
They are not looking to be Gordon’s Gin, or even Hendrick’s, but just to make an amazing product that they can be proud of. People are realizing the obvious, that for there to be more jobs, companies need to stop outsourcing manufacturing, and that there can be pride in making something in the US without it being regressive or xenophobic. It is a movement and belief that is growing momentum, with sites like the Tumblr Fuck Yeah Made in USA paying tribute to brands that manufacture in the US.
As people watch the economic system around them collapse, they realize how little they had liked it in the first place, working long hours at a job they hated, getting a nice paycheck but not having the time to enjoy it. Now people are starting businesses, doing what they love, exchanging a big paycheck for an improved quality of life. Realistically, none of these companies are going to become the next Proctor & Gamble, and that is the point. It is going to be the longtail economy, full of microbrands who are full of neighborhood pride and ship internationally through their mobile site, and who collectively will take a large slice out of the giant’s pie. It is the globalized hyperlocal economy, and is going to be the real growth sector of the future. It seems like all of the VC firms and entrepreneurship writers are convinced that the future will revolve around apps and mobile, and that social media will be the only sector where you will be able to realize success. What they fail to realize is that while digital connectivity is now permanently entrenched into our lives, it is still only a part our experience, and now matter how digitized we become, we still exist in the physical world, and we have become increasingly disappointed with the cheap, mass produced products that surround us. People are now setting out to change this, offer local, high quality products that we can be proud of owning, with honest, authentic stories, and consumers are going to respond, making the choice that not only gets them the better product, but betters the community and the economy, and honestly, the multinationals should start to get scared.