While the year of the protester has just passed, 2012 looks to be the year of the entrepreneur.
Jobs are in scarce supply, and underemployment is at an all-time high. Things look bleak. But, truth be told, there has never been a better time for individuals to start new businesses. Taking up entrepreneurship is now an extremely doable means to overcome unemployment and underemployment, and perhaps even get rich. There are certainly enough global, national and local problems that need solving–and worldwide, 2012 must be a big year for innovative problem solvers.
Consider some of the resources at the ready for 2012-preneurs. Technology has made the proposition of business ownership more affordable than ever before, and shrunk the world to the point where startups can now compete on a global level upon launch. The lack of lending by big banks has led the way for new mainstream financing options to emerge, including dramatic upticks in lending for small businesses by credit unions and accounts receivable financing providers. Crowdfunding websites such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter help tens of thousands of upstarts raise capital for prototypes, products, and other endeavors. Even in the developing world, entrepreneurship has emerged as a driving force behind the eradication of poverty thanks to Kiva and other micro-loan financiers.
Whereas a traditional office or retail space was a necessity less than a decade ago, today, thanks to the rise of virtual office services and co-working spaces, working from home or Starbucks is the new norm. Access to mentorship has also spread as more incubators and accelerators continue to pop up in university campuses, small towns, and major cities. Some organizations, such as Y Combinator, TechStars and Gen Y Capital Partners, even include seed money and access to angel investors and venture capitalists.
From Startup Peru to Startup America, hundreds of private/public partnerships and programs have been created around the world to incentivize and support future job creators. Even governments fraught with political disputes (or, ahem, a broken Congress) have found bi-partisan comprises in entrepreneurship-related legislation, including reforms to the patent process, crowdfunding capital, and student loan relief programs for college graduates turned business owners. Undoubtedly, issues facing entrepreneurs will play a major role in the 2012 presidential election, a platform that will only further spread the movement.
Much like the protesters of 2011, collective entrepreneurial action in 2012 has the real power to change the world. While individual success is certainly not easy to obtain or guaranteed by any means, educating the global population about entrepreneurship’s benefits, affordability and accessibility must remain a top priority. Encouraging more entrepreneurs to take action will not only revitalize the global economy, it will also fundamentally change the value proposition for starting a business, and the foundation on which the economy as a whole functions.
That is why, even though the new year has just begun, the “Entrepreneur” gets my vote for TIME’s 2012 Person of the Year. I can only hope that you will be featured on the magazine’s cover before the year ends.