Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are: How Entrepreneurs Use The Institutions of Entrepreneurship To Thrive In The Technological Epoch

How can institutions such as education, family, language, laws, and economy be understood as the catalysts for emerging institutions of entrepreneurship?

From an entrepreneurial perspective, institutions result from emerging social phenomena based on subjective experience and perspective. Institutions of entrepreneurship include action, technology, knowledge and learning, culture, and values. You see, institutions of entrepreneurship do not thwart marketplace initiatives; instead, they are instrumental for entrepreneurial action to advance into the near future. Many of our institutions are the result of human action and not of design, but over time, predetermined narratives tend to come into existence. From an entrepreneurial point of view, set narratives of entrepreneurship are guides toward a general framework of individual potentialities and should not be deterministic. Institutions serve as constraints and, at the same time, as action enablers.

As in all entrepreneurial matters,  subjectivity applies. The subjectivity of entrepreneurial institutions should allow individuals the ability to take advantage of newly emerging market opportunities. If nascent entrepreneurs go about serving others in the marketplace the same way as previous actors, they will ultimately get the same result. As a case in point, it was Einstein who changed Newton’s longtime theory of gravity by pointing out there is a special and a general relativity. Einstein replaced Newton’s theory, not using the same thoughts and processes as Newton, but from his subjective institutional experiences, knowledge, and skills that he possessed at a particular point in time as new ideas emerged. The theory of relativity gave physics a massive leap in science. The conventions of physics allowed Einstein to use the institutional framework to discover and attempt to be part of something useful for science and the layperson.

Can we extend this same sentiment to the entrepreneur to advance using the institutions of entrepreneurship?

I say yes! An entrepreneur’s experience within institutional environments is subjective, so in the words of Booker T. Washington, nascent entrepreneurs should “cast down your bucket where you are.” Ideally, everyone should have the opportunity to “cast down a bucket where they are,” particularly via emerging entrepreneurial institutions, as a means to learn from the marketplace and participate in the market economy.

Emerging entrepreneurship institutions – such as starting a business on the internet – are the key to entry into markets that may have once been unobtainable for some people, primarily because institutions are subjectively experienced. In many ways, institutions can be identity-producing. If Mary Kay started her business a certain way, it does not mean others following her footsteps have to do it the same way to be successful as she was. Like Isaac Newton, she inspired. Emerging entrepreneurial institutional environments, for those individuals steeped in institutional identity, provide a chance for individuals to realize an alternative to the normative ways of participating in a given marketplace. Moreover, nascent entrepreneurs can use emerging institutions via institutional superhighways through multiple technological devices (i.e., smartphones, laptops, social, and e-commerce platforms) to make transaction-based sales that can serve consumers across the globe.

Institutional environments ought to allow everyone the chance to pursue their entrepreneurial plans. As we know, plans are often diverted due to unexpected events, which is why entrepreneurial institutional environments should serve as market feedback mechanisms and not barriers to market entry. Dropping a bucket means using production factors to serve consumers in the best possible way, not waiting for the ideal circumstance to participate in the marketplace. Entrepreneurs should not wait for an ideal situation, ideal investment, or the perfect business idea.

Within the institutions of entrepreneurship, one should be able to drop down their bucket where they are. Institutions of entrepreneurship should make room for new entrepreneurial participants via technological devices, i.e., smartphones, tablets, laptops. Higher levels of entrepreneurship are not the cause but the effect of technological advancements. Technology is not static but dynamic and the same for the people using it. “Tools and machinery are primarily not labor-saving devices, but means to increase output,” as Ludwig von Mises once said.

A recent report showed that 14% of business owners are between 30-39, and 4 % are between 18 and 29. These demographics (especially 18-29) own smartphones or laptops with access to e-commerce platforms and digital media – basically access to consumer markets at their fingertips. The next logical question is: if 13% of millennials spend over 12 hours on their phones daily, how can they participate in the marketplace? The data speak to the fact that everyone has the chance to drop their buckets where they are and serve their fellow man.

“At least 81% of entrepreneurs do not have access to a bank loan or venture capital,” says a recent Kauffman Foundation report. The report goes on to say, “Very little of the total capital flow to entrepreneurs is geared toward women and people of color.” Again, institutional environments are entirely subjective, as there is too much diversity among people and circumstances to assume that everyone interested in entrepreneurship might uniformly enter the market and participate evenly. Nevertheless, that is the point! Instead of institutional barriers preventing entrepreneurship, institutions of entrepreneurship and emerging institutions ought to function as superhighways of entrepreneurial accessibility via the means of one’s talent and resources where they are, as indeed most people have access to technological devices.

There are 272.6 million smartphone users across the United States, which means that 272.6 million business opportunities are waiting for people to drop down their buckets. Not to mention, 52.4% of the population worldwide use their smartphone to access the internet.

Entrepreneurship is a function of the market process, an activity that should be open to anyone willing to serve others’ needs. Internet searches are now an institution; they’re how people express needs. There are vast amounts of these internet searches, providing the inquisitive entrepreneurial mind with a million ways to start a business. However, the problem is that not all potential entrepreneurs will experience the same institutional environments uniformly. We all have different plans and expectations of how entrepreneurial institutions should facilitate entrepreneurial pursuits, whether it be the production of music, art, lectures, reading material, cooking lessons, painting services, or exercise tutorials. If buckets are dropped where the person is, the only cost incurred by the nascent entrepreneur is time, and the chances are that someone got served, which is the first step towards the ideal success narrative that we often connotate with entrepreneurship.

Again, there are entrepreneurial opportunities only if entrepreneurial institutional environments create an entry for anyone willing to drop their bucket where they are. Entrepreneurial institutions should operate as uncertainty reducers and not uncertainty enhancers. Therefore, the conventional institutional environments ought to support emerging entrepreneurial opportunities and individual action. The institutions of entrepreneurship should accommodate action in emerging institutions so that the entrepreneurial spirit can pour the horn of plenty on all of us.

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