You can divide most people into two groups: those that are bullish on offline businesses and those that are bullish on online businesses.
The former want to create the next coffee shop or the next farm supply company. The latter want to create the next Amazon or Facebook.
There’s nothing inherently wrong in either of those opinions but the biggest opportunity for entrepreneurs over the next 5 years will be at the intersection of offline and online.
And, in particular, it’s about helping those offline companies learn to use online service to grow their businesses. (e.g. social media and paid ads for customer acquisition and online services to streamline their back office processes)
If you’re reading this from San Francisco, Chicago or some other big city, you might think that the online/offline intersection is a joke. Or too basic. Or not disruptive enough.
But the rest of America — and the rest of the world — would disagree with you.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve driven 50,000+ miles, lived in 92+ cities and met 50,000+ entrepreneurs across North America and here’s what I’ve learned:
Ambition is equally distributed. Cash is easier (not easy) to get than ever. Functional expertise — particularly around entrepreneurship — is what’s not equally distributed.
And that’s the opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders everywhere.
To really think about what it takes to help more of their existing offline businesses learn to use and leverage the latest online platforms and tools to grow those local businesses.
Encourage your local tech entrepreneurs to run a workshop on using Facebook ads. Or a workshop on using social media effectively. Or a workshop on using existing online tools to streamline back office processes. And spend the rest of the time getting local offline businesses to come spend an hour a week learning about it.
Whatever you do, just do something. And start doing it today. That time will be better spent than begging other big companies to move to your town.