I spent most of my high school days being a nerd. College was more about friends and partying. Sure, I had a paper route and summer jobs to pocket some extra cash, but, what I wasn't doing was managing a full fledged business.
Over the last decade, we've gotten used to a new generation of young entrepreneurs. From Mark Zuckerberg in his hoodie to Evan Spiegel, we've all gotten comfortable with the 20 to 30-year-old CEO, but what about the 15-year-old founder? Well, get ready because they're here and poised to hire you to work for them.
There is a long and impressive list of Gen Z founders, who are born in 1995 or later, running successful companies in industries spanning fashion and consumer packaged goods, all the way to financial services and biotechnology, but why the sudden explosion?
Kids have new role models
When I was growing up my idols were Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Most of my friends wanted to be doctors or engineers or professional ski instructors or hockey players (I grew up in Canada). Now kids grow up in a world where they are exposed to seemingly endless list of career opportunities. I can speak from personal experience in saying that my children watched their father start companies, rather than work for them and that's a lifetime experience that sticks with a lot of kids.
Information is endless
It seems fairly obvious to say that the internet has changed everything for everyone, but it's important to remember that kids now have access to information in a way we've never seen before. It will be many years before we can even fully understand the impact that the age of information will have on Gen Z. What is clear already is that they are using access to information and to each other to create in ways previous generations weren't able to. And social media platforms allow young entrepreneurs an instant focus group to test their ideas and give them feedback, not to mention free marketing and PR.
Barriers to entry are lower than ever
Starting a business is never easy, but new technology and software solutions like Shopify, Square and Amazon are making the barriers to entry for founders much more manageable. By combining a few basic tools and services, young entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into reality in what seems like minutes. Companies like Shopify even have resources dedicated specifically to young founders and are clearly seeing the potential this Gen Z business owners have to make a major impact.
Watching a new generation start to leave their mark on the world is particularly exciting for me as an entrepreneur but also for all of us at my company Techstars. We've been able to see young people think and innovate in ways that older, more experienced professionals often can't compete with. In fact, at our Startup Weekend event last winter, a team of four high school and college students that had never met before won a 54-hour event against other developers, designers and aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch and launch a business in front of local CFOs and CEOs.
Technology can often be the great equalizer -- it can level the playing field and make it so that the best idea is the best idea, regardless of where or who it comes from.