5 Small Businesses of the Future

1-Meat Grower

The Idea: Grow meat in a lab

Stage: The tech works but the taste may be off

Using techniques that come out of stem cell technology, numerous groups of scientists have grown meat in the lab. Stem cells are placed on scaffolding and soaked in nutrients to grow. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are behind the push for lab meat. In 2008, the group offered a $1 million prize to the first group that can grow commercially viable amounts of chicken meat in a lab. New Harvest is a nonprofit founded by Jason Matheny in 2004 to do just that. In May he told Bloomberg Businessweek, “It’s a way to satisfy the growing global demand for meat in a way that’s healthier, more energy efficient, and sustainable.” See Bloomberg Businessweek’s profile of New Harvest founder Jason Matheny.

2-Jet-pack Dealership

The Idea: Personal flight

Stage: Finally, commercially available

A New Zealand company, Martin Aircraft, is taking orders for the first commercially available jetpack. It’s recreational, so you’d need to go fly in a field somewhere, rather than to work. It’s also expensive, with the Martin website stating a price of $100,000. If that price comes down, however, it’s not hard to imagine that folks might want to fly to work instead of drive. That is, until air traffic looks like the freeways of today.


3-Privacy Protection Firm

The Idea: Your private info at risk

Stage: The need for data protection and reputation management growing rapidly

From credit-card numbers to photos from the latest kegger, more private information is online than ever before. Businesses need to protect that information, and individuals need to be careful with it. Mike Spinney, a privacy expert in Townsend, Mass., says states are only now beginning to pass laws that require companies to have written security plans to prevent data breach. Beyond data, a cottage industry is developing in the field of reputation management. “The bad things we do online can be seen by just about anybody,” says Spinney. “The good things you do online can be your social media résumé, as it were. But you don’t want an impertinent comment on Facebook to be the difference between landing, or not landing, a job.”


The Idea: Smaller is better

Stage: Getting cheaper all the time

As satellites get smaller, the costs of launching them get lower. That’s the major limiting factor. Nanosatellites and the even-smaller picosatellites can be packed with all sorts of useful equipment that have business applications. “The types of nanosatellites and microsatellites that can be built by small companies and universities will become more robust,” says Peter H. Diamandis, a pioneer in the field of commerical space flight. “We’re heading in a direction where small teams and small companies will be able to do far more in smaller packages.”

5-Greenhouse Gas Auditors

The Idea: Private companies audit polluters

Stage: Dependent on policy

Doing a greenhouse gas audit is endlessly complicated, because so much of our daily lives, from heating to transportation to food, involve contributing to climate change. As policy shifts to stop impending environmental degradation, the jobs will follow. Michael Gillenwater is an expert in greenhouse gas measurement and co-founder of the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. “There are going to be a more roles related to greenhouse gas management,” he says. “Auditors are one role that a lot of people focused on initially. It has been the most clearly defined role in these early days of carbon markets. But there will be a whole population of carbon specialists.” In the end, the objective is to make the information that has been collected useful. And that depends in large part on policy. “It will have to develop,” says Gillenwater, “assuming we take the problem of [climate change] seriously and start to implement policy to mitigate it.”



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