Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Millenials and Entrepreneurship
Here is Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, being interviewed about Millennials, opportunities for start ups, and the sudden burgeoning of entrepreneurship among young people. This blog has covered before the situation young people are in coping with the present bad economy. Ohanian point, that the lack of economic opportunities means that there's no opportunity cost for entrepreneurship, and that this is the silver lining in our economic cloud is an interesting one. He also points out that the barriers for entry into business have never been lower because of increased access to consumers and open source software.
Michigan Future, Inc. put out a report several years ago with the purpose of attracting knowledge workers to Detroit and thereby encouraging the revitalization of downtown Detroit. Their "knowledge workers" are Ohanian's audience as well - young, very bright, creative, willing to work hard and take risks. In the past they've gone where the jobs are and taken their energy and drive with them, reducing the fortunes of smaller cities already on a downward spiral and enriching larger cities with, arguably, enough knowledge capital. Now, however, with good jobs hard to find nationally, they have incentive to stay where they are and build their own opportunities.
The less fortunate part of this is that knowledge workers - people who can create with "a laptop and an internet connection" are only a small subset of the general population. Most would be small business entrepreneurs still need some capital to get started. Even if you have the knowledge to build a parts washer to spotlessly clean engine liners, you can't do it without investment capital. While some small businesses can be run from home, manufacturing plants, auto garages, medical care centers, and organic farms, to name but a few, cannot, and those are the businesses who will hire workers who are not knowledge workers but still need employment. The economy won't get better until there are jobs available to the average worker, not just the specialty one.
It is, however, a blessing for very bright people who don't want to move away from their communities to find their livelihoods. And, eventually, many knowledge workers do generate jobs from their risk taking. Reddit only has 28 employees, but Ohanian has other projects that fund average people looking for a break. It's not an overall solution to the nation's economic problems, but for those people he's helped get exposure and funds it's been life changing. We need to see more of this virtuous cycle of economic activity.