How to be a 21st-century entrepreneur

Al Sisto

Blog by: Al Sisto - 22 / Aug / 2019

Most entrepreneurs like to think of themselves as visionary, innovative, forward-thinking. But what does it really take to be a modern business leader, a 21st-century entrepreneur?

Here are five key qualities we think all modern entrepreneurs need to emulate.


Sure, the old phrases ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘blue-sky thinking’ are likely to make you cringe. But the sentiment of experimentality, of being prepared to go outside your comfort zone or look at things from an unusual angle, still rings true. In today’s fast-paced business and technology environment, it is more important than ever before for entrepreneurs to be prepared to tackle problems differently, and to adapt to new ways of doing things. Stick with the status quo and you may find yourself stuck in the past.


Modern entrepreneurship is more outward-looking than ever before. Every business owner can’t solve all the world’s problems but having a sense of corporate responsibility beyond the boundaries of the business is becoming increasingly expected by customers, business partners and employees alike. Whether it’s taking proactive steps to reduce their organisations’ environmental impact, offering flexible working practices which support working parents, or being thoughtful about the ethics of their supply chains – or all these and more – 21st-century entrepreneurs are aware of the broader impact of their organisation.


By this we mean empathy with both your employees, and with your customers. We mean understanding their needs and motivations and adapting your business practices accordingly. As millennials and Gen-Z make up an ever-larger proportion of both your customer base and your workforce, it is vital for entrepreneurs to think strategically about these cohorts, and what they want from businesses. Offering more flexible and mobile approaches to working practices than you might in the past, for example, shows an understanding of your employees’ needs and expectations, and can position your organisation as a more attractive employer than your competitor. Vital, when attracting and retaining the best talent is key to start-up success.


We keep on saying it – today’s business and technology landscapes are incredibly dynamic and ever-changing – and that means businesses need to be able to keep up with and respond to that dynamism. When it comes to developing new products and services, this frequently means taking an agile approach, running multiple iterations of new products which are tested live with customers and are able to feed back into the development lifecycle as quickly as possible. The Internet of Things has powered great new developments in this area, by enabling businesses to collect feedback on the performance of their products in situ, and immediately feed that data into the next development cycle.

The business plan

And finally – a bit of continuity. Having a clear business plan has always been essential for entrepreneurs starting up a new venture or attempting to achieve ambitious growth with a new start-up. A clear and comprehensive business plan is essential for securing funding and investment, for setting a strategy for all employees to follow, for establishing the organisational culture and for creating a framework for strategic and tactical decisions. Even in today’s transformed business landscape, all of these factors are still critical parts of entrepreneurship. To be a 21st-century entrepreneur, you need to know what your business goals are, and have a roadmap for getting there.

At Tern we focus on mentoring the entrepreneurs of the companies that we invest in, to become the IoT leaders of tomorrow. To find out more about our investments, click here.

Topics: entrepreneur, IoT

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