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This is a guest post by Ingrid Vanderveldt

2012 was a good year for the entrepreneur. Exponential leaps in technology have made it continually easier for widespread adoption of a good idea and for a small business to scale successfully to an empire. As we look ahead to 2013, all eyes are on upcoming trends which will fuel innovation, job creation and economic growth worldwide.

As Dell’s first Entrepreneur in Residence, I constantly have an ear to the ground of the entrepreneur community. In the past year, I was lucky enough to speak with thousands of entrepreneurs, and from those conversations, I predict that the following trends will shape the world of entrepreneurialism in 2013.

Alternative financing strategies for entrepreneurs

Traditional financial institutions have never been stricter with their financing constraints, often using metrics that are incongruous to the current business landscape. Most businesses are still bootstrapping, but are encouraged by alternative funding options as more borrowers and lenders are getting creative.

Crowdfunding (i.e. Kickstarter), peer-to-peer lending sites, investor associations, angel investors, and revenue-based financing are just a few examples of innovative funding tools increasingly available to business leaders. To a large degree, these are supplanting the traditional big venture capital round for young companies.

The trend of big companies investing in small businesses also plays a role in providing capital to entrepreneurs whose businesses may grow to become long-term partners or customers. One example of this is the $100 million Dell Innovators Credit Fund, launched last June, which offers financing for technology products and solutions to newly venture-backed startups.  Another is Google Ventures, which works with portfolio companies full-time on design, recruiting, marketing, and engineering.

The introduction of scalable technology

With the explosion of big data (predicted to increase 43 percent over the next 10 years), and accelerated adoption of the cloud, more and more companies will look to technology as a strategic advantage to scaling successfully. As budgets remain tight, business owners will increasingly look to outside tech vendors to serve as advisors and will expect them to provide IT services and tailored recommendations to meet their specific business needs.

Entrepreneurs have the same IT concerns and priorities as large corporations, but are often working on a much tighter budget. In order to address top priorities they need to be agile and have the flexibility to scale up and down depending on customer demand. This enables smaller businesses to solve for short term needs while simultaneously keeping an eye on long term challenges. Scalability enables companies to expand resource capabilities while remaining flexible to adapt future challenges – without paying for more than what is needed.

Solutions to the human capital problem

Entrepreneurs struggle with accessing good talent. In particular, we’ve heard from entrepreneurs who say they have jobs available, but there are not enough people with the specific skillsets to fill those jobs, whether they are a sales role or even operating manufacturing equipment. A lot can be gained by understanding how to maximize current and potential human capital within a business and extended entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Online and in-person networking opportunities have never been so valuable for matching potential employees to openings. Training will also be a key factor in ensuring that our future workforce has the skills to compete in the job market, and those who are still facing unemployment will need to look towards training solutions to get the proper skills for today’s jobs.

The problem is a challenging one, and we expect that technology will be a vital piece in bridging this gap between employers, training and the workforce. Now more than ever, we will see an influx of groups that cultivate a vibrant community of entrepreneurs who connect with one another for new sources of financial and human capital, knowledge and markets.

Entrepreneurs will get even younger

Blogging, launching apps, publishing magazines and creating social networks, kids like Adora Svitak (15) and Robert Nay, 16 have all created empires before they hit college. It is not uncommon these days for entrepreneurs to be in their teens or early twenties, and they seem to be getting younger each year. What others may view as blind idealism is a key to success for teenage and college-aged entrepreneurs.

Youngsters seem to be good at focusing an intense amount of energy on their vision without getting lost amidst the normal problems faced when setting up an enterprise. This allows them to push on until they are satisfied with the outcome. Much of this may have to do with the fact that they typically have less outside pressures that older adults face, such as marriage, children, mortgages, or maybe even a job!

Generally younger entrepreneurs have also embraced innovative technology far better than their senior counterparts. This new generation of entrepreneurs is taking advantage of social networks, penetrating the Web to push their ideas, products and services to a large, targeted audience. This also boosts their ability to quickly adapt to needs of their target market, unlike more traditional businesspeople who may not know the latest market trends in real-time.

In light of this growing trend, many larger organizations have begun providing students with opportunities to learn about the multi-faceted risks and opportunities involved with launching, running and growing a business. We see this in the form of youth leadership programs, scholarships and sweepstakes, which are becoming more prevalent each year.

Young people have shown that they too have what it takes to establish a business empire in any industry, in any part of the world.

The rise of social entrepreneurship

The concept of doing well by doing good has caught fire in a time where economic, social and environmental sustainability are more meaningful than ever.  Strong focus on positive social and environmental impact has spurred contests, scholarships and even best business practices to be centered around the concept of giving to a global community.

It has become apparent that social innovators will need to dedicate themselves to solving the world’s most pressing problems with their transformative ideas. No pressure or anything!

ingridIngrid Vanderveldt is an entrepreneur and investor whose work is focused on providing tools, technology and resources to empower entrepreneurs around the globe. She is the Entrepreneur in Residence for Dell and owner of IngridVanderveldt LLC, as well as VH2 Energy Investments.

Ingrid created and oversees the $100M Dell Innovators Credit Fund for Entrepreneurs and The Dell Center for Entrepreneurs. She is also the co-founder of The Billionaire Girls Club and is a Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Member.

Ingrid is the 2012 Alumna of the Year for The Savannah College of Art & Design where she earned a Masters in Architecture. She also holds an MBA in entrepreneurship from The University of Texas at Austin. Follow her at @ontheroadwithiv.

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