Photo Courtesy of ~K~.
Last week BusinessWeek posted an article by Jeff Bussgang, a seasoned investor and entrepreneur, who shared his concern that we are suffering from a lost generation of entrepreneurs. It seems he tried to make a list of significant entrepreneurs under 35 and wasn't able to get very far. Jeff argues that since the 2000s were lean years that did not produce many substantial start-ups, that generation of 20-somethings was not able to develop company-building skills. He says we have not had the opportunity to see success at a young age or learn the important lessons of start-up leadership, so our generation has also missed out on the early start-up experience that would have made great mentors and serial starters later in life. Further, we are lacking good entrepreneurial role models, and he worries the next generation of entrepreneurs too could be lost without footsteps to follow.
With all due respect, I think maybe Jeff worries too much. If he's looking for examples of young people with start-up leadership experience, skills and success, he may just be looking in the wrong place. This generation is less interested in making as much money as possible and more interested in starting organizations that are mission-focused, so we are looking at nonprofits and companies with double or triple bottom lines. While the 2000s may not have been a good time to start a business, that hasn't kept twenty-something entrepreneurs of every stripe from starting nonprofits and social ventures.
As much as I might have tried to discourage them, the upshot of all the Millennial nonprofit start-ups is that people of our generation (successful and not) are learning a lot in the process. I don’t think Jeff should be worried about a lost generation of entrepreneurs; rather, I think he should be glad to see that whatever the economic climate has been, this generation of entrepreneurs is using innovation to address social challenges, even when that means sacrificing opportunities for personal gain – the same types of opportunities that might have drawn them into the circles that would get Jeff’s attention.
In an effort to ease his worries, we at Social Citizens would like to offer few people he can add to his list of under 35 success stories with leadership experience and start-up skills that will have no problem serving as role models for their peers and the next generation of entrepreneurs, who may also focus a little less on profits and a little more on changing the world.
Blake Mycoskie, 33, founded TOMS Shoes with the idea that promising to give away one pair of shoes for every pair purchased. Prior to starting TOMS, Blake has founded four other businesses since college.
Emily Pilloton, 28, who wrote “Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People,” and founded Project H Design, a nonprofit team of designers, architects and builders that mobilize product design ingenuity to benefit humanity, habitats, health and happiness. See her on the Colbert Report earlier this year.
Scott Harrison, 34, who left his job as a successful nightclub promoter to start charity:water, an incredibly successful nonprofit providing clean water for hundreds of thousands of people.
Jonny Dorsey, 24, who while in undergrad at Stanford decided to take a leave of absence to start FACE AIDS and oversaw the expansion of the organization to 150 schools across the country. He's now cofounder of Global Health Corps, which strives to promote global health equity.
Ory Okolloh, 34, is a blogger, co-founder of Ushahidi, an innovative technology platform originally developed to map violence after the 2008 Kenyan election, and co-founder of Mzalendo, which tracks the performance of Kenyan policiticans.
Esra'a Al Shafei, 23, who promotes human rights for ethic and religious minorities through multiple online campaigns and is the founder and director of MideastYouth.com, an interfaith network developed to provide young people with freedom of expression.
Sam Adelsberg, 22, who is the co-founder of LendforPeace.org, which allows people to support the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through online microloans to vetted entrepreneurs in the West Bank.
Courtney Macavinta, 34, started Respect RX, a social venture that promotes self-respect, relationship respect and respect for all for teens and young adults, and has been featured consistently as an expert on issues facing teens and women.
Jacob Colker, 26, who after managing numerous political and advocacy campaigns founded The Extraordinaries, a social enterprise which gives people the opportunity to volunteer their spare moments for causes they care about using their mobile phones.
I've more than doubled Jeff's "depressingly short list" here, but do your part to help him feel better...add to the list!