2014 stands out as a pivotal year for many reasons: some good, some terrifying, some cringe-worthy, but all noteworthy. This year we’ve witnessed the horrific groundswell of the terrorist group ISIS. We’ve experienced the very real possibility of an epidemic in this country. And we witnessed an uprising—in the name of democracy—in Hong Kong.
But it’s not all evil and strife. 2014 was the year we put marriage equality in the books; we allowed a nascent industry—marijuana—to thrive; and we celebrated (and wept) as Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history.
It was a year of humility—and from that humility, optimism.
And in business, new ways of seeing and creating became the norm. Access to capital morphed as 2014 ushered in and finally acknowledged the power of the people.
This was the year ride-sharing services made major inroads, operating in nearly every major U.S. metropolitan area and internationally. (Uber alone is in 45 countries.) Of course, they made some enemies along the way, criticized for price-gouging, wage-garnishing and security breaches.
Also this year, crowdfunding platforms grew some serious balls. The strategy continues to gain momentum and street cred, with big-time investors taking a second look at the possibilities. And you, as entrepreneurs and internet denizens, are part of this narrative.
Welcome to the year of the storyteller platform, which will carry on into next year. Of all the highs and lows, storytelling seemed to be the major business lesson of 2014. Financials still matter to investors, but your story is now the story—and the one that will land you cash money.
Take this, for example: the Coolest Cooler, a combination cooler-stereo-margarita blender, which raised a hangover-inducing $13 million on Kickstarter. That’s a lot of cash for a cooler startup. And what a great story.
On a smaller but still notable scale: This was the year of potato-salad capital investment. What started as a tongue-in-cheek campaign to make potato salad ended up raising $55,000 on Kickstarter—proving yet again that if you have a compelling story and know how to tell it, the money is there.
This issue is our favorite of the year. We look not only at the events and the people that have defined the past 12 months, but at the trends and opportunities we expect to see in the coming 12 months. It is our moment to bring together past, present and future. And it is our only issue this year (if ever?) in which Mary Barra (CEO of GM) and Beyoncé (CEO of the Universe) come together in perfect harmony in one feature.