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Starting a new business from scratch is no easy feat. Just ask any of the thousands of wannabe business owners who take the plunge into the uncertain world of entrepreneurship every year. Within four years, more than half of these business owners will see their businesses fold, a testament to how difficult it is to start and sustain a profitable business.

For those businesses that do make it, a few elements stand out as factors for success. One important one is choosing the right industry or niche market to launch the business in, something that can only be done after fully understanding that industry.

Gaining insight into your target industry early on gives your young business many significant strategic advantages. It lets you map out an industry’s growth rate, its fragmentation profile, barriers to entry, taxation and legal regimes, and, perhaps more importantly, availability of capital from willing investors. After all, not many investors will be willing to pump capital into a business whose industry has no growth potential.

So, for first-time entrepreneurs looking to realize their dreams of owning a business, here are a few of the most lucrative, investor-friendly industries that statistically present the highest chances for success.

1. Fintech

Fintech, short for financial technology, continues to disrupt traditional financial markets across the globe. At the forefront of this disruptive trend is a highly dynamic startup ecosystem that continues to draw interest from both seasoned and upcoming investors, making it a highly lucrative environment for first-time entrepreneurs.

According to one KPMG report, 2018 saw a record number of fintech-related buyouts, mergers and acquisitions, bringing the total value of fintech funding to just under $112 billion – a 120% increase from the previous year. The same report cited larger deal sizes and increasing geo-diversity of investment sources as reasons behind the maturation of the fintech industry, which should be encouraging for entrepreneurs with interests here.

Alternative lending, a fintech sub-sector that includes niches such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, is one of the biggest drivers of growth within the fintech sector. In addition to tech developments, the evolving legal and regulatory environment is helping spur this niche forward. Per loan data accurate as of earlier this year, 20 states in the US, for instance, have comprehensive laws governing different niches within the alternative lending industry, which not only helps protect consumers from predatory lending but also opens up a world of opportunities for startups within this area. 

2. Cannabis

Despite the negative stereotypes that have traditionally been associated with cannabis use, the cannabis industry is blossoming into a lucrative business environment, thanks in part to an improving regulatory environment globally.

Buoyed by $10 billion worth of consumer spending, the industry saw an influx of $13.8 billion in total investment in 2018 up from $3.6 billion raised the previous year. Plus, with consumer spending projected to hit the $23 billion mark by 2022, the industry presents a good opportunity for any first-time, growth-oriented entrepreneur looking for a lucrative, future-proof industry to jump in.

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Another potential plus for entrepreneurs here is the industry’s highly diverse niche market. In addition to cultivators and cannabis dispensaries – the industry’s growing and selling hubs respectively, there are a ton of ancillary business opportunities that exist within this industry. These include everything from digital marketers to ag-tech companies who are involved in value-added processes such as breeding and extraction. In fact, extraction of CBD, one of several compounds unique to cannabis, is huge business, with the CBD market expected to hit $2.1 billion by 2020.   

And as more countries legalize or begin the conversation around the legalization of cannabis, there should be a ton of opportunities for entrepreneurs in this area.

3. Digital marketing

In a world where a simple, $4,500 video ad could turn an everyday startup into a billion-dollar company, digital marketing remains a promising platform for entrepreneurs that want to make money by helping other businesses promote their brands.

Indeed, the digital marketing space is a huge one, with a staggering $283 billion spent on digital ads last year. It is estimated that marketing agencies and internal marketing departments globally will spend over $333 billion in digital ads this year. And with a 50.1% chunk of the global ad market, this will mark the first time that digital ads become the most popular marketing platform globally.

For entrepreneurs with interests in this area, there are a ton of opportunities to establish a brand within this industry. Even though the general pathway for marketing agencies often involves an all-inclusive marketing offering, it pays to specialize in a few areas within the industry. Search engine optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are two of the most lucrative areas of digital marketing, thanks to the 50% boost in lead generation that comes from PPC strategies that often sees businesses paying top dollar for these services.

There are also many opportunities in social media management, influencer marketing, digital ad placement, and other upcoming digital marketing niches that can be good for startups.   

4. Education Technology (Edtech)

Education technology, simply referred to as edtech, has brought seismic shifts in the world of education. Apart from K12 and higher education where edtech is helping oversee some gradual evolution, edtech is disrupting learning, self-development and corporate learning at a much faster rate, which offers prospective business owners various opportunities to test out their entrepreneurial skills.

According to data by Kognetics, investments in edtech were on the verge of crossing the $100 billion mark by the end of 2018, with over $97 billion in total funding up to that point. Startups in this area received an average of $5 million in funding, with a significant number easily closing over $20 million in early-stage funding, which represents a very high funding appetite by investors in edtech. In fact, over 50% of the total investment amount in edtech since 1997 has been invested between 2015 and 2018, an additional testament to the promising future within this space.

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There are many profitable and investor-friendly industry segments that an aspiring entrepreneur can take up within edtech, including self-learning, career advancement, corporate learning, school and campus management ERP, and the edtech marketplace. Self-learning is by far the most attractive for investors, with over $255 million pulled since the beginning of the year alone, which again proves why edtech should be appealing for entrepreneurs.  

5. Green and renewable energy

For the longest time, renewable energy was often regarded as a domain exclusive to governments, non-profit organizations, and multinational corporations. But as increasing consumer demand, improved cost efficiencies, and technological innovation continue to move renewables from mainstream to preferred energy sources, the renewable energy industry presents one of the best opportunities to start an international business.

Last year, global investment in green and renewable energy hit $288.9 billion, with solar investments taking a significant share at just under $140 billion. Investment in wind power closed the year at $134.1 billion, with biomass and waste-to-energy investments closing at $8.7 billion, a 54% increase from 2017. Plus, and perhaps more significantly, the total investments in clean energy last year were three times the figure pumped into coal and gas-powered generators, which shows a strong resolve across the world to move into clean energy.

On the ground, opportunities within clean energy exist virtually everywhere. Investment in wind power, which shot up by 3% last year, has helped shape the clean energy industry within the past decade. In Europe and the US, on- and off-shore wind investments helped boost total investments by 39% and 1%, respectively, with the Americas, home to the San Cristobal Wind Project – one of the largest in the region, seeing a higher number of clean energy startups than in any other time period before 2018.

In addition to wind power, other niche ideas within this market include power storage systems, bio-fuel production, consultancy services, and photovoltaic systems that have all been proven to high-return, future-proof niches within an industry that becomes more attractive to investors every other year.

Bottom line

Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires, among other things, deep knowledge of your target industry. And because a good, growth-oriented industry will be one that is attractive to investors, it is always advisable to identify investment trends within your target industry as this will help you match your business with potential investors once you’ve set up shop.

To find more information and data about your target industry, scour the internet and physical publications for industry-specific information about your industry. Research firms like Forrester and IBIS can be good places to start, not to mention lobby associations and industry-specific professional bodies.


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