President John Adams once said, a problem is just an opportunity in disguise. Generally speaking, it is often during a crises that innovation comes. We need not look back too far in time to find primary examples of this.
In 2003, during the height of the SARS epidemic, it was a need for a safe method of shopping from home that turned a small e-commerce company named Alibaba into the nearly $500 billion juggernaut it is today. Netflix rose to prominence shortly after the 2008 housing market crash, when people looking for an inexpensive form of entertainment found they could get both DVD rentals and digital streaming for the low price of $4.99 a month. Today, we see similar innovators like Zoom, which went from 10 million daily users to over 300 million users in less than six months. With so many people forced to stay home, they have turned our current health crises into an opportunity for exponential growth.
Ever since the "grand experiment" that was the founding of our nation, innovation has always been at the core of who we are as Americans. People like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Jeff Zuckerberg weren’t just inventors; they were visionaries who changed the world. If America is to recover and become even stronger after Covid-19 it will be on the backs of a new wave of dreamers willing to risk it all for an opportunity at success.
There have been times in my own life when I have seriously considered quitting my job and starting my own business. A combination of fear and other circumstances has always stopped me. But if I’m honest, today I would hesitate to consider it. The nationwide shutdown has been devastating for small businesses. With the fear that another shutdown could happen at any time, there are more risks than ever in starting a business.
On top of that, the cultural mindset we seem to be adopting is not very pro-growth. Many no longer celebrate those successful in business, instead their success is viewed as somehow undeserved or ill-gotten. For too many, passion and drive seem to be being replaced with fear and envy. Capitalism has, in some circles, become a dirty word.
To see the kind of economic recovery we all want, we must as a society make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs to succeed. We have to create a business climate that not only allows people to start a new business but encourages and rewards those brave enough to do so. When entrepreneurs succeed, we all reap the benefits. Don’t believe me? Go to a country like Venezuela, which severely limits private enterprise, and look at the average person’s standard of living. It’s no coincidence that the average Venezuelan lost 24 lbs because of food shortages in 2017.
If I sound pessimistic about our future, I’m not. We are a people of great ingenuity and purpose. If anything I am excited about what the future brings. As we speak, I have no doubt there is some young man or woman who has just come up with an idea that could fundamentally alter how we live and interact. Our challenge as a nation is to foster both that person and their idea so that it comes to fruition. If we do this in mass there is no limit to how much we can accomplish. As Frank sang, "The best is yet to come"
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.)
Luke Davis is the director of operations and compliance at Stewardship Capital in Independence.