The most successful entrepreneurs are those who don’t follow the herd but anticipate the needs of the market earlier than the competition. Of course, such anticipation is not without risk, but the payout can be considerable. After all, seminal inventions, such as the automobile, the Internet, and the smartphone, were all regarded with high degrees of skepticism when first introduced.

Equally important, the impact is not only cultural but economic as well. The automobile gave rise to a global network of small businesses, such as parts makers, dealerships, and service centers.

The Internet has spawned a host of online companies, many of which, such as and, have grown from small operations to extremely large ones.

So, what are the small businesses of the future, and where will we find them? The fields of energy and cleantech seem to be among the ripest areas for growth, as do nanotechnology, entertainment, and the growing demands of adapting the planet to accommodate its burgeoning population–even if they might strike some of us now as far-fetched.

In forming the jobs and businesses that might arise out of necessity, pleasure seeking, and technology, we generally followed the first of the late British author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke’s “laws” of prediction, which goes as follows:

  • “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.
  • When he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.”

Since resources are running out here on Earth, the value of rare metals and minerals may someday be worth the cost of lunar or asteroid mining, especially when you consider that deep sea drilling requires investments of billions of dollars.

“It’s an area of personal passion,” says Peter Diamandis, commercial space pioneer and founder of the X PRIZE Foundation. “If you realize that everything we hold of value on earth is in near-infinite quantities in space, you realize there will be vast wealth created on the space frontier.”

Diamandis is not concerned with the difficulties inherent in mining an asteroid; he’s already convinced it’s possible and lucrative. “It’s really about taking the steps and clarifying the regulatory structure of who owns these resources.”