Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Making the most of the opportunities up ahead

Budding entrepreneurs need to look ahead and be able to identify new emerging trends in technology, education and international economics. Ron Immink, co-founder of Smallbusinesscan.com, explains

It is the job of every entrepreneur to worry about the future. I talk regularly about future trends and recently I was asked by a major radio station to do something on 'the future'.

In preparation, I read Flash Foresight by Daniel Burrus, which is about how to predict trends and take advantage of them as a business. The book makes a distinction between: cyclical change (recession) and linear trends (ageing or computing speed); and hard trends (no escape) and soft trends (you can influence these).

The trends predicted are:

  • dematerialisation (everything smaller)
  • virtualisation (virtual worlds, virtual simulations)
  • mobility (going smaller makes things wearable)
  • intelligent products (everywhere)
  • networking of all products
  • interactivity (web 4.0)
  • globalisation (the whole world connected)
  • convergence (of all of the above)

These trends are speeding up, and Moore's law (double capacity, half cost) applies to all of them.

Imagine a world where tiny computers that are embedded in your brain, powered by 'nano fusion', talk to 'intelligent asphalt' about where to park your car. I am not making this up. It's happening.

Burrus says it is NOT about economic recovery, but about transformation of our economy and our businesses.

The bad news is that transformation is not good for economies with lots of legacy systems (the curse of what works) and great for the ones that have none. Africa will become a hotspot very soon.

The good news is that the rapid change will also mean that some of our problems, such as health and energy, will be solved via algae, intelligent energy, anticipative intelligent health technology.

If you want to establish yourself as an entrepreneur, be proactive and follow military and toys. They are the first predictors of change. Business follows and education then lags.

If you want a good book on that, read Out Of Our Minds by Ken Robinson. The general gist of this book is that the financial crisis is 'chicken-feed' compared to the looming education crisis.

We are not preparing our kids for the new world, which needs imagination, creativity and innovation, not commodity and academics. I digress.

I have been trying to figure out how to bring this back to the 'entrepreneur around the corner'. Maybe the best example to give is our own small businesses and entrepreneurs' community and growth network: www.smallbusinesscan.com. We worry about the future. We have just launched version 4.0, which is a much better, niftier version, with lots more functionality, but at the same time more clean and mean. But what is to come?

A global 'Smallbusinesscan' where business lessons are shared across the world? Intelligent business products that are linked to Smallbusinesscan? A portable Smallbusinesscan? A personal virtual Smallbusinesscan business assistant, mentor, advisor, partner? Believe it or not, we are actually working on some of these - or primitive versions of them anyway. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but we do make a point of imagining the future; we do try to be creative and we do try to apply it. And we think that makes www.smallbusinesscan.com better, but feel free to comment on the site.

Whatever your opinion, it does create a whole new world of opportunities. And that is the point.

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