Surprise! Gen Y is the most inherently entrepreneurial generation the world has ever seen. And even as that creates tension with their elders, it also promises to change the world.
"Spoiled and entitled. Too idealistic. They think they're going to change the world."
These are just a few things that have been said about . . .
You thought I was going to say Generation Y, didn't you? Although I actually heard all that and more said about Gen Yers (also known as Millennials) just this past week, I'm actually talkin' 'bout MY generation (hat tip to The Who
Generation Y Entrepreneurs Are Coming
But I'm not here to discuss generational similarities. Instead, I want to warn you about Gen Y. Far from being lazy, Gen Y is the most inherently entrepreneurial generation we've ever seen. And, competitively speaking, they're coming after the rest of us. Are you prepared to defend your turf?
Much of this new generational war is taking place on the battlefield of technology. Millennials are digital natives; the power of technology is in their bones, and they are not afraid to harness it in their business plans. The rest of us? Well, not so much.
Unbelievably, about half of American small businesses STILL don't even have a website. If you're on the wrong half of that divide, you will not stand a chance in this fight. There are no more excuses. As AllBusiness.com editorial director Fredric Paul recently pointed out, Intuit has just introduced a tool enabling you to build a website almost instantly.
And an instant is just about all the time you have to get with the program. Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, believes "technology enables businesses to compete immediately." As a leading voice of Gen Y entrepreneurs, Gerber boasts, "We have a microwave mentality. We can build a website in 24 hours or less, and create a business in 72 hours."
How long does it take you?
Calling for a Generational Truce
Gerber contends that "tension" exists because "older generations discount Gen Y. They think we don't know how to build a real business." But he's not calling for a war.
Instead, he thinks there's a lot Gen Y and older entrepreneurs can teach one another. "If we open a real two-way dialog," he said, "we'll increase everyone's ability to compete. We can show [boomers] how to go faster and grow quicker, and we need to learn patience, persistence, and focus."
Gerber believes his generation is driven to be "more entrepreneurial" by a combination of desperation (no one's hiring) and "the cool factor." Millennials think starting new companies is cool because they believe that they were born to change the world - and you can't do that from a cubicle in a giant corporation. Changing the world means creating the Entrepreneurial Revolution… version 2.0.
The Entrepreneurial Revolution Goes Global
The first Entrepreneurial revolution was born in America in the 1990s, led by baby boomers thrust into entrepreneurship by a recession that led to massive corporate layoffs. This time, the revolution is global. A few weeks ago Gerber and several other Gen Y entrepreneurs traveled to Egypt, courtesy of the U.S. State Department, to help promote entrepreneurship. He went with expectations of having to teach young Egyptians about starting and growing new businesses. Once in country, he found many of the folks he met had already discovered it on their own.
The experience taught Gerber that "entrepreneurship exists in all parts of the globe, even where it's seemingly not present." And that has really does have the potential to change the world.
It's about creating a giant entrepreneurial ecosystem, which Gerber believes (and who can argue?) is in the best interest of all nations. "Global entrepreneurship is a powerful tool," he said, "and the solution to many issues we face as a society."
We're All Entrepreneurs Now
And Gerber is far from alone. Take my 21-year-old nephew Ricky Kreitner. He's not an entrepreneur, but he shares Gerber's outlook: "A lot of creativity, even, horror of horrors, non-commercial creativity, is expressed through classic market vocabulary. What do the people want? What niche can I fill? A lot of basic human drives that used to operate outside the system are now expressed within the system. We're all entrepreneurs now."
Sure, Kreitner admits his generation is entitled. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, he said. "A sense of entitlement is what causes revolutions -- just look at Tahrir Square."
Just back from Egypt, Gerber agrees. As one young Egyptian woman told him, "Entrepreneurship represents the choice we never had. Before, our destiny was pre-determined. Now, if we can topple Mubarak, imagine what else we can do."
"Talents all over the world are going to unite under a single flag of entrepreneurship," Gerber predicted. "And you don't go to war with people you do business with."