Young people are increasingly taking non-linear career paths that are putting them at the forefront of the economic and societal transformations we are currently experiencing. By taking advantage of new communication platforms, they are utilising highly democratised knowledge for self-directed education and information sharing, and building solutions with a global perspective.
For some, a lack of work experience is enabling fresh perspectives and new approaches towards building organisations. Today’s young entrepreneurs are adopting new technologies that leapfrog tools based on legacy infrastructures. They are embracing widespread transparency to create open and highly collaborative ways to engage with teams and customers, from open source product development to crowdfunding.
Youth are not just potential leaders of tomorrow, but leaders of today who are transforming the entrepreneurial landscape. They are the new faces of entrepreneurship.
Alongside events in 160 countries celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week, Kiwi Connect are telling the stories of five outstanding young entrepreneurs from around Aotearoa New Zealand on our blog over the week, sharing the richness of their entrepreneurial journeys, and valuable lessons for those exploring entrepreneurial paths. We invite you to participate in this online conversation on Twitter or Facebook, by highlighting the achievements and impact of young entrepreneurs you know. Throw them a shout out, write a post, or share an anecdote; and please use the hashtags #NewFaces and #GEW2015.
To kick us off, we share three key observations we gleaned from the young entrepreneurs we talked with.
The new faces are building for impact
Our young people recognise that the operations of our businesses, organisations and educational institutions cannot be decoupled from the wider social and environmental ecosystems within which they operate. Building for impact gives today’s entrepreneurs a greater sense of purpose and motivates them to innovate. Dmitry Selitskiy from Thought-Wired explained, “The number one motivation for us is to apply technology for good, to really create impact with technology.”
Image: Sarvnaz Taherian and Dmitry Selitskiy of Thought-Wired
As such many young entrepreneurs recognise that impact is not just a nice-to-have. TechCrunch recently suggested that “impact is the new mobile” - that is, within ten years, it will be as natural and necessary to embed positive impact into business, as it is today to have a website that renders well on mobile devices. The shift in mindset is evident in the rising prominence of the B Corporation movement.
Kendall Flutey, co-founder of Banqer referred to her youthful naivety as an advantage. Describing youth as the next crest of the entrepreneurship wave, Shay Wright, co-founder of Te Whare Hukahuka also cited the lack of assumptions or limiting beliefs, as a point of difference in younger generations. Young people are not afraid - or don’t “know better” - to tackle big, gnarly widespread problems.
Young entrepreneurs realise that these are not only problems for their local communities, but for people all over the world. New Zealand is poised to embed impact into immigration, after John Key announced plans in July to develop a new Global Impact Visa.
The new faces are creating new educational and organisational models
Brianne West, founder of Ethique has never worked for a company before. So when it came time to start planning and building her own, she didn’t have any preconceived ideas of how it should be. She wanted to pay a living wage. So she did. She wanted to get certified as a B Corporation. So she did, becoming one of only four in New Zealand.
Image: Brianne West, founder of Ethique
At Sam Kerse’s startup Notifr, nobody has job titles or descriptions. He just hires the types of people who will see that something that needs to be done, and go ahead and do it. Kerse explained that the open source movement was helping drive collaboration over competition: “What I think we're seeing is an encouragement to talk about what you're doing. The open source movement has helped fuel that, we're seeing more and more IP being released to the world for free.”
These organisational shifts mark a return to commons-based thinking and peer-to-peer transactions. Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation, will be furthering conversations on the sharing economy next week, on his speaking tour around New Zealand.
The new faces are prioritising collective wellbeing
The life of a young entrepreneur comes with its own challenges and personal crucibles. The pressures are high when expanding overseas, managing teams who are older and more experienced, and carrying a sense of responsibility to address widespread societal and environmental injustices through their work. Yet rather than being discouraged, today’s young entrepreneurs are working smarter and looking out for themselves.
Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey found that, when asked what their priorities would be if they were in charge of their organisation, 37% of millennials listed employee wellbeing as their number one priority above personal gain and profit.
Image: Millennial's attitudes towards priorities. Source: Deloitte Millennial Survey 2015.
Collective wellbeing starts with individual wellbeing, and if ignored in the fast-paced startup world, can result in early burnout, reduced effectiveness and loss of motivation. Dmitry Selitskiy of Thought-Wired expressed gratitude for the support and encouragement that the Ākina Foundation provided to his team throughout the Launchpad programme, as his team hit a technological wall. Brianne West said that it pays to look out for yourself, and ensure that you have support systems in place.
Wellington-based social enterprise Lifehack view youth mental health and wellbeing as a holistic vision to be achieved, rather than a collection of problems to be solved. As a result, they encourage young people to embrace the good with the bad, and bring their whole selves to work. The issue was also raised at New Frontiers festival in February, with Vend founder Vaughan Rowsell suggesting that we need community support infrastructure for entrepreneurs.
Over the coming days, we will be exploring a lot of these topics and more, and telling the stories of inspiring young Kiwi entrepreneurs. Join us in this conversation.