I recently tweeted that “the industry with the biggest barrier to entry is… religion #ultimateentreprenuer.” I thought I’d explain this further. It’s been about six years since I became interested in entrepreneurship. The more I study entrepreneurship, the more I realize how similar business is to religion. It’s pretty cliche to say that religion is a business, but it really is, and so much more.
During Startup Weekend, it was mentioned over and over again that being an entrepreneur means solving problems. As far as problems go, “I’m not happy”, “I don’t understand why the world is the way it is”, and “I want to know the meaning of life” are some of the most difficult to solve. That’s the problem that religious leaders try to solve. Of course, there’s more to it than just that.
Aside from a having capital and a keen business mindset, which all entrepreneurs need, a religious leader must also have superhuman marketing skills, which is sometimes in the form of charisma. Because of how difficult the marketing is, I’m suggesting that religion has the highest barrier to entry.
What makes marketing a religion so difficult? I’ll use business terms to describe this:
1) Customers can only choose one brand at a time.
2) The psychological cost behind switching a brand is extremely high.
3) The market has been heavily concentrated on a few major brands for thousands of years.
4) Families and entire countries have been loyal to a specific brand for generations.
4) The brand a customer chooses doesn’t merely affect a portion of his lifestyle, but decides how the customer views and understands the world.
Now based on those few points, would you invest in a business entering this market? Chances are no. You really have to believe the business you’re starting will help a lot of people. This is what makes early religious leaders the ultimate entrepreneurs.