Seven years ago, Kickstarter was born. Over its lifetime, the platform has helped fund roughly 100,000 creative projects that otherwise would have remained pipe dreams to their founders.
Then there are those mega-rounds going to VC-backed startups. Although this activity cooled in the fourth quarter of 2015 — down to $11.4 billion, from $20.3 billion in the third quarter — VC funding has helped tech startups remain private.
But . . . those are tech startups. And that begs the question: Are VC, crowdfunding and other resources going to the right places? This year, entrepreneurs should spend more time and energy innovating in sectors that have largely been neglected. As a result, they’ll not only profit, but society at large will be guaranteed to take one giant step forward.
Healthcare costs, including those for basic service, are skyrocketing. Sadly, this discourages people from seeking preventative care, because high copays and deductibles feel like unnecessary expenses. The result is that, over time, people’s illnesses get worse and the costs of maintaining their already impoverished state become financially crippling.
According to Scott Becker and Molly Gamble, writing for Becker’s Hospital Review, “Over the past two to four years, something fascinating happened. First, healthcare insurance costs stayed largely the same. This gave some people the illusion that family healthcare costs might be staying flat. In reality, the consumer portion of costs went up very substantially.”
The current system fails consumers and is ripe for disruption. If greedy businessmen like Martin Shkreli continue to artificially inflate the cost of quality healthcare, we are going to be in deep trouble.
American students are drowning in a sea of debt, and despite their extra years of schooling, many still aren’t learning marketable skills. Though classrooms have adopted new technologies to better engage students, the educational system operates on an outdated curriculum.
More affordable solutions that better prepare students for the workforce, are appearing, like Khan Academy, Udemy and other massive open online courses (MOOCs). Yet despite moves by institutions like Harvard and MIT to upload free courses online, many students seek — and employers demand — a matriculated degree. For change to happen, we need to rework the mainstream educational system or reconsider our reverence for higher education degrees.
Our hunger for shiny new gadgets is rapidly destroying the Earth. Ironically, we pay a very high social price for cheap consumer electronics. Brands and manufacturers should seek new ways to process raw materials and produce consumables so that future generations aren’t left to live in a toxic wasteland caused by our current-day appetite for trendy electronics.
In China, where overcrowding is common, whole cities have been erected within the span of months, then left abandoned because of developers’ bankruptcies and high purchase prices. Closer to home, in San Francisco, where rent prices are alarmingly high, antiquated zoning laws are forcing long-time residents and new transplants to move to distant suburbs.
As the U.S. population continues to grow, entrepreneurs will need to work around existing housing ordinances to better use limited spaces, and to create buildings in places where people need them the most.
The Hoverboard was all the rage in 2015, but people truly need a better solution for getting around. In many cities, bike-sharing programs are an environmentally friendly option for commuters and visitors.
But biking hasn’t been fully adopted by consumers because the roads still favor vehicles. Tesla is making massive strides toward greener personal transport, but its Model 3 won’t be out until next year.
Though many charitable organizations spend a major portion of the donations they receive on aid, a troubling number of delinquent ones spend upwards of 97 percent of their funds on non-aid expenses. The Tampa Bay Times, for instance, reported that Kids Wish Network was spending less than 3 cents of every donated dollar on the children it promises to provide for.
Against our best intentions, microloans, another form of charity, often make the poor poorer. Rather than helping to create opportunity in impoverished communities, some microloan programs have stymied growth as lending agents have pocketed much of the cash raised and placed borrowers in an inescapable cycle of debt.
As entrepreneurs, our goal should be to create value for businesses and consumers everywhere. For those of us willing to take up a noble cause, the six industries above offer a myriad of opportunities to build disruptive businesses that will have an overwhelmingly positive social impact.