Thoughts On Ingrid Vanderveldt's Six Predictions for Entrepreneurship in 2014

Elyse Petersen considers Ingrid Vanderveldt's recent predictions for Entrepreneurship in 2014 and discusses how they are especially relevant to her own startup, Tealet, an online Farmers market for Tea. In particular, she highlights her use of social media, her position as a woman entrepreneur and the growing use of cryptocurrency in business.  

As I grow my start-up into the new year, a year of the Horse, I look towards innovating in new spaces and building a community.

The past year was educational, but to be honest it was a hard year. We are still growing into a new paradigm, one that was originally instigated by the risks that we took just a few years ago, a Leap Year.

2014 will be a year of reward for those that continue working and making smart decisions about where to invest resources, especially when it comes to technology. Ingrid Vanderveldt, an Entrepreneur in Residence at Dell, recently published what she believes to be the trends of 2014 for entrepreneurship. 

For me she hit the nail right on the head, as I see how the growth of my business will be influenced by five of the six trends she mentions.

1. Social media space continues to grow ever-crowded.

Bootstrapping entrepreneurs have learned the value of social media, and if they haven’t, then they are doing it all wrong.

It is not just a low cost way to get your brand in front of more eyes, it is a way to build connections and community. No matter what sector your business, there is a social media platform/tool for you. The trick is to understand on which platform to focus and which strategy to execute.

If you are a retailer you can build a network of advocates to drive traffic with high conversion rates to your website, and if you are a B2B entrepreneur you can use LinkedIn to build industry expertise and become the go-to person for potential customers when they have questions. I plan on using social media in 2014 to continue to grow our network and build a brand for my business as the expert of online marketing of farm-direct products, international agriculture logistics, and cryptocurrency payments. Having this online brand will attract future customers and business partners.

2. Marrying profits with purpose.

Had I started my business five years ago I think I would be in a very different place. I probably wouldn’t be working on it full time. The traction that my social enterprise has accomplished in the past two years is due to a shifting consumer consciousness. We are entering a new age of consumption where success of a business is not just about offering a low priced item for the market but about providing higher quality products in a way that benefits the consumer, community, and environment.

A conscious consumer has created the demand for these types of businesses, but it is the entrepreneur who is realizing that a social business model is not just good for the consumer, it’s also good for their business.

I wrote in 2013 about a new generation of social entrepreneurs that will save the world. Business models that don’t externalize the costs of doing business but rather act as a part of the ecosystem will see sustained success because the bigger they grow the bigger the community grows.

2014 is a year of advocacy for social business as it will be a topic of discussion in many different circles.

3. It’s no longer a question of Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley.

I started building my business in one of the most unlikely locations; Hawaii. It’s the most isolated land mass in the world with exponentially higher costs for everything including food, rent, and labor. With all these challenges Hawaii is proving to be one of the greatest places for entrepreneurs, especially social entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs can utilize these challenges to their benefit as they can easily provide and test solutions to these challenges as their business grows. The state has a growing community of people working together to build infrastructure for technology startups.

We have been exposed to the benefits of an accelerator, seed funding, and an international network of mentors. In addition to building Tealet in Hawaii my team has also spent time building a network in Silicon Valley during the 500 Startups accelerator and also in Las Vegas as we have recently relocated the company to Sin City.

I can draw many parallels with what I’ve seen in Silicon Valley versus Hawaii and Las Vegas, but most importantly each startup ecosystem is unique and culturally sensitive. Hawaii is very much about collaboration and social entrepreneurship, while Las Vegas is more about collisions and community.

All have a common goal of providing a safe and nurturing environment where entrepreneurs can create synergy and excel. I see 2014 as an opportunity for me to serve as a connection between the growing Hawaii community, evolving Las Vegas community, and ever-important Silicon Valley community.

4. Alternative forms of payment and digital currency move into the mainstream.

The most exciting technology in recent history, in my opinion, is cryptocurrency.

When I first heard about Bitcoin over two years ago, I was excited to see where it would go, and I couldn’t be more happy now. We are entering a time of cryptocurrency history where it will become the mainstream as merchants see its economic value.

This value is not in the investment of Bitcoin, hoping you can double or triple your investment. The value is in seeing Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrecies such as Litecoin, as an international payment tool. In 2013 my company started to accept Bitcoin as payment with great success, but in 2014 we look forward to setting up all our farmers to accept Bitcoin so we can reduce foreign currency and banking fees from 10% to 1%.

This is world-changing, which is why I think so many people in the technology space are excited about the potential of Bitcoin. Don’t be surprised to see all your favorite online and brick and mortar retailers begin accepting Bitcoin in 2014. In addition, don’t be surprised to see yourself opening your own Bitcoin wallet so you can use it as a consumer.

5. Women are rising to the top.

As a female founder in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men I can’t stress more how important women will become in the business world in 2014.

This has been a topic of conversation for a few years now, but I am seeing more and more businesses and industries actively promoting female leaders to work alongside men. Businesses are smart to do this because more balance is needed for high level decisions.

As much as I don’t like to generalize men versus women there are key personality and leadership traits that the two have that complement each other well. A company will make more innovative and pragmatic decisions with more female leaders in charge. I am proud to be a female founder, but don’t see my gender as a hindrance to Tealet’s success. I also don’t think it is something that should be viewed as a novelty.

This is a trend that is here to stay!

I am excited for what 2014 has in store for my business and your business as well. All the trends point towards collaboration, transparency, efficiency, and equality. Use these trends to your advantage and 2014 will be a year of reward for you.

Picture courtesy of ddpavumba/Free Digital Photos.net

Elyse Petersen is the Founder of Tealet, a startup which connects tea growers and tea drinkers, delivering tea direct from the grower to the customer's door. 

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