Traditionally, entrepreneurs bring innovation and
change to the world in their quest to find new ways to turn a profit. Today, modern technology, looser government
controls and better access to capital make it even easier for
entrepreneurs to succeed. VOA's economics correspondent Barry Wood
looks at entrepreneurship worldwide, profiling business risk-takers in
Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Asia and Russia. (Part 1 of 5)
original French word entrepreneur refers to someone who undertakes,
who does something. Entrepreneurs assume business risk or bring a new
product, service or idea to market.
Their innovations sometimes
change the world. Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, but his
assembly line revolutionized manufacturing and made cars affordable for
the average worker.
Bill Gates is perhaps the world's best known
entrepreneur. He did not invent personal computers, but his operating
system made them easy to use and brought the new technology to
Journalism professor Wendell Cochran of American
University says the Internet, with its capacity to instantaneously
convey information around the world, is an extraordinary platform for
"Google became a verb almost 24 hours
after it became a thing," said Cochran. "So, [the Internet] is incredibly
Thirteen years ago, San Francisco
entrepreneur Craig Newmark created an online bulletin board for the
brokerage firm where he worked. Today his Craig's List is a free alternative to the classified ads that have been a major source of earnings for newspapers.
"Right now we're in about 55 countries, 567 cities across the world," explained Newmark. Some analysts say Craig's List is having the same effect on newspapers that Ford's car had on the horse and wagon.
Since the collapse of communism, entrepreneurs have taken off in places where they were once forbidden, including Russia.
Yakovleva is the financial director of a Moscow company that
Despite new freedoms, she says, government
bureaucracy still makes it hard to be an entrepreneur. "A
bureaucrat scores a point for each court case he initiates or for every
company he closes, and this improves his job performance evaluation,"
In Venezuela, currency exchange controls and a
leadership hostile to free markets make it difficult to do business.
Caracas food distributor Santiago Alvarez complains that government
bureaucrats are unhelpful.
"Getting all the permits to start a
business is a real challenge," explained Alvarez. "You have to face
tremendous amounts of bureaucracy from a lot of different entities, in
order to get permits and to get financing."
But, as always,
entrepreneurs are highly motivated and frequently prevail against the
odds. They raise funds by borrowing from relatives, tapping into
village cooperatives or, getting loans from a bank. And they learn
how to cope with onerous bureaucracy to bring their ideas to the