From our friends at Visual.ly comes this fascinating infographic about the nature of Web 2.0 startups in the last five years or so. These companies are all, to some degree, on the cutting edge of American enterprise and represent key expressions of 21st century entrepreneurialism. Whether these companies will still be a going concern in 2020 is an open question, of course, because in an entrepreneurial environment, ideas are floated and tested in part to determine which ones work and which ones don't. The environment in which these companies do business (through mobile devices, tablets and other virtualized spaces) is also not especially well understood. A reality of America 3.0 is that these companies are increasingly seen as the engines of economic growth and development - the primary method by which this country will compete in emerging global markets and contexts.
But what do these companies do, exactly? While I am not even in the top 10,000 of most socially networked people in the country, I am no slouch. I know what about a half of the companies in the infographic do (go on - test yourself - how many of these guys have you heard of?) or at least what markets they are trying to shape, create or conquer. If you don't know what these companies are or what they're trying to do, and you're still in the workforce, you should be paying more attention because they may be telling you something about the future that you will want to know. Have a closer look at these companies, at particular one that you have almost certainly heard of - flickr (a photo-sharing hub). How many people does flickr employ? According to the infographic, less than 40. Think about that. Ever been on a full school bus? There were more people in that bus than there are in flickr's employ. If these companies are the future, or even part of it, how will the workers of tomorrow prepare themselves to compete for jobs when the companies most reflecting the spirit of the time employ, essentially, nobody. The great scions of America 2.0 like General Electric (287,000 employees) were both entrepreneurial and job-creating. Squaring that circle - how do we transform our economy while maintaining entrepreneurialism and job creation, when the companies of the future can get the job done with so few hands, might be one of the great 21st century challenges.