10 years ago give or take, the tasks involved in starting a business and doing it all yourself were quite different than they are today. here are some comparisons.
Information: of course you could find somethings online, but much of the information needed for the steps to run a business were found in specialty bookstores. I remember having boxes of books from Nolo and O'Reilly media that I pored over figuring things out. Now those books have been recycled and the best information is that which is constantly being updated online.
Legal: searching for patents and much of that research has changed so much. Before Google had google patents database, it was much harder to do a good search and find the information that you needed. In addition, filing a patent online was either not possible or not as convenient as it has become today. Sites such as upcounsel and rocketlawyer have made the search for legal counsel so much easier and has cut out so much wasted time on your part trying to find the right person to work for you.
Web: browsers were all on desktops and back then, to build a site you started with learning html. php, flash, ajax, css. All these languages and means that you customized for your own site. You had to ftp or file transfer protocol your pages to your site and update them, back them up, etc. Now so much of that has become invisible with companies such as wordpress and shopify etc automating the design to make it so much easier to get your information out there.
phones: online searching has transferred so much to smartphones and that has led to so many different ways to consume media online.
creating content: apps apps apps.....back then i could count on one hand the tools needed to run a business. Now, it is just overwhelming - just for instagram, I have 5 or 6 apps on my phone for various functions. There are so many tools to manage social media and there are so many ways to get from point A to point B that it is quite overwhelming. Right now on my phone I have: instagram, repost, twitter, hootsuite, textgram, Photogrid. For managing ads and sales: Pages manager, Amazon seller, Facebook Ads. In order to curate content: feedly, gramblr. it is difficult to navigate so many different apps.
Retail: we are using shopify for our store and shopify allows customization through the use of apps - for one feature that you need, you will find 10 different apps that can do the same thing. For our email popup app, we have tried 5 so far. It truly does get confusing all the different apps available to customize your site. At the same time, it allows you to not have to recreate the wheel because someone has made it and is granting you access to what they have created so that you don't have to be the expert.
skype existed back then but most communication overseas was through email. now with wechat and skype and paypal, it is so easy to communicate with vendors. And the biggest one, everyone's favorite: Alibaba - what a tremendous resource that has made international trade so much easier and safer. also, 3d printing has become so much more available and instead of paying for a mold, you can create your 3d file, send it to shapeways or sculpteo and you have your printed part in your hands within a week or two. In addition the existence of techshop has made it all the more easier to ideate and create without much tooling up. A membership at techshop gives you access to tools that previously were prohibitive to use and now it is all at your fingertips.
Entrepreneurship and startups:
Before, having an MBA was a membership into an exclusive world where deals were made over a plate of sashimi but now, with sites such as Meetup or Eventbrite, you can find people who are like-minded to help you get your ideas out there. Startup conferences across the country and tv shows like SharkTank have taken something that was once done behind closed doors to the public so that everyone could understand the components of a successful pitch and many dreamers have been born from watching shows like this.
This is one space where online marketing today doesn't look much like it used to - google seo has changed so much since the early days and now that is just one component of online marketing. Now, with all the competing social media apps and the quick way that you can get information to your customer, this is a task that is no small feat. You can get information to people so fast and yet it is harder to differentiate yourself because the market is quite saturated. Hashtags exist - you can get eyeballs on your site from tagging your posts properly. Social media marketing is like playing double dutch - when it's right, it's right, when it's not, it seems hopeless. Face to face sales still is quite important and trade shows continue to help bring like minded people together to collaborate face to face. However, retailers such as polyvore, zulily, groupon, pop up shops all these innovative new retail solutions have also completely changed the landscape.
Funding: One word: kickstarter - what a game changer. Before you even order your product, you can crowdfund to eliminate the very difficult and complex process of funding a project and risking everything to see it through. With crowdfunding you can quickly vet an idea and test its viability without putting much upfront investment in.
People today are finding viable means of employment through their online persona: blogging, instagramming, youtube personality, product reviewer....this has been a great time for people who are social media savvy to be able to make an income from advertising and promotional sales - being a portal of information for all the people out there hungry for information is a great job especially for moms who need a lot of flexibility to be able to work from home. Etsy and now amazon craft and amazon FBA - so many interesting ways to sell your products and generate income from their sales.
I have only touched the surface, but really, today's start up world looks nothing like it looked 10 years ago. Although in many ways, it is more daunting with so many rules of engagement you must learn, it has also become streamlined to allow you to shine where you excel and fudge the rest with the help of so many online resources. The entrepreneurial world is so exciting right now and imagine even in 5 years how much it will have evolved. It is a very exciting time to be starting your own business.