Amid the social media mavens, graduate students and “boomerang kids” of Generation Y, there lies a budding coterie of successful entrepreneurs.
According to a generational research review conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, approximately one half to two-thirds of millennials are interested in entrepreneurship, with 27 percent already self-employed.
More telling, 28 to 30 percent of all new entrepreneurs from 2000 to 2008 were between the ages of 20 and 34, which is the textbook millennial age group.
The gradual maturation of Gen Y has given rise to entrepreneurial superstars, with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Andrew Mason of Groupon serving as beacons of success.
As a member of Gen Y whose fledgling career took root in the start-up space, I’ve spent considerable time mulling over the following questions: why exactly has “entrepreneurship” become a buzzword throughout millennial culture? More specifically, what makes today’s young professionals particularly apt to become entrepreneurs?
Citing personal experience and a critical analysis of the aforementioned millennial research review, here is my take on the entrepreneurial spirit of today’s youth:
Why we love it:
Launching a company is a practical response to the residual affects of the Great Recession: high unemployment rates, a desolate job market and a distrust of corporations. Faced with a severe lack of employment opportunities, today’s young professionals instead turned to self-employment, killing three birds with one stone.
Entrepreneurship also appeals to millennials’ alleged sense of entitlement. According to psychologist and Gen Y researcher Jean Twenge, today’s youth can be described as “overly self-confident and self-absorbed,” seeking fulfillment in extrinsic life goals. In addition to this supposed narcissism, members of Gen Y score high in terms of assertiveness, and are overly confident in their abilities.
The idea of being one’s own boss plays into this ideology, as business owners get to set their own schedule, call the shots, and essentially live and die by their own work ethic.
Why we excel at it:
Generation Y is by far the most educated, with a record 72 percent of us graduating high school, 71 percent taking Advanced Placement courses, 68 percent enrolling in college, and 58 percent of those enrolled receiving a Bachelor’s degree. Reflecting this trend, entrepreneurship curriculum has even been added to more than 2,000 U.S. colleges and universities.
Furthermore, this comprehensive education is generally technology-centric. Learned expertise, coupled with prolonged exposure to technology and social media throughout adolescence, gives today’s young professionals a considerable advantage in the tech-space—ideal for the largely tech-based world of start-ups. The simple fact that millennials aren’t intimidated by technology and know how to use it efficiently goes a long way.
Why this matters:
This wave of entrepreneurship has spurred job creation, with businesses less than one year old creating anywhere from 2.5 million to 4.5 million jobs per year between 1994 and 2010. Most importantly, entrepreneurship in general has helped guide our fragile economy back to solid footing.
This combination of a highly educated and motivated generation, set against a backdrop of unemployment and professional misfortune, creates a situation tailor-made for an explosion of entrepreneurship. Although not a new concept, today’s tech-based innovators give a millennial nod to the entrepreneurs at the heart of the original “American Dream.” Plus a few Snapchats and Twitter mentions.
If you want to participate in the millennial entrepreneurship conversation, join us at Collaborate 2015 on January 23 and 24 in Washington, D.C. Hope to see you there!