Opinion | 2014: Year of the TREP

Opinion | 2014: Year of the TREP

By Kent Oyler

As the Far East winds down the Chinese Year of the SNAKE (really? a snake?) and ramps up for the 1/31/14 onset of the more formidable-sounding Year of the HORSE, the time has arrived to declare 2014 the American Year of the TREP.

Kent Oyler
Kent Oyler

Yes, as in enTREPreneur; a suitable rival for our Asian competitor’s surging commercial battle HORSE. (For more on China threats, see our blog).

What distinguishes the TREPs is their resilient approach to innovation that melds markets, motivation, creativity, hard work, capital and Red Bull into lean and focused change. We’re talking about the brisk headlong transformational change that has made the USA the world’s leading generator of intellectual property, music, art and enterprise.

Just as the PC supplanted the mainframe, and text replaced talking, TREPs have displaced large corporations as the engines of global innovation. As legions of modern TREPs passionately fashion new businesses to appease their deep personal needs, they have become the West’s secret sauce for invention and discovery.

Working from Ivy Towers, minimalist accelerators and smelly dorm rooms, TREPs think the unthinkable and defy the impossible to create the improbable and make it the inevitable.

Whether the world needed Twitter, MakerBots or car sharing isn’t the point; such new TREP-created industries are now altering our world.

There are many dynamics propelling the morph from corporate to the TREP-driven change. Downsizings have convinced millions who previously depended on a long-term career that they damn well better have a backup entrepreneurial business they’re planning. Democratization of technology brought about by laptops, apps and the cloud has felled barriers to entry for all types of e-commerce.

Celebrity entrepreneurs, social media, Shark Tank, Android, Fro, Junior Achievement and a refocusing of B-Schools on entrepreneurial programs have upped the TREP cool-factor to a level where a majority of kids want to start their own businesses.

And let’s not forget the delight of working in jeans and a T-shirt.

But fear not old school MBAs, big business need not be exiled to irrelevanceville by some throng of sneaker-wearing accelerator geeks monopolizing the Starbucks Wi-Fi; in fact, it needs to fuel itself on such beings.

By engaging with and encouraging the enTREPs outside and the inTREPs inside their organizations, the big boys and girls can surely up their games and regain global innovation supremacy over the rising Reds. And in the process, perhaps they’ll advance their outdated models for technological, cultural, financial and organizational innovation.

It’s a brave new world out there, and it’s high time we celebrate the new standard bearers of healthy change. For at least 2014, let’s give the TREPs their place on a calendar rather than the endless iteration of snakes, horses, goats and dragons.

Kent Oyler is managing director of OPM Financial and chairman of CommonWealth Crowdfunding, a grassroots initiative designed to help prepare entrepreneurs and investors to take advantage of all forms of crowdfunding.