The traditional narrative for entrepreneurs is a step-by-step process that generally looks something like this:
The assumption is that you'll be ready to launch your startup in your 30s or 40s. Or maybe your 50s because, well ... kids.
Now, I don't want to burst any happy bubbles for those of you who are already treading the traditional pathway, but that traditional narrative no longer makes much sense, because over the past two decades, big corporations, big academia, and big corporatist government have rigged the business world so that the longer you wait to start your own company, the less likely you are to be successful.
Because of this, young entrepreneurs (Millennials and Gen-Zers) should launch their startups immediately rather than waiting until they've got a degree and some experience. Here's why:
1. College has become increasingly irrelevant.
If you already know you're going to be an entrepreneur, college is a waste of time. Business colleges are so out of touch that very few teach sales skills--the most important business skill for any entrepreneur. B-schools are also notorious repositories of wannabe entrepreneurs spouting clouds of fluffy biz-blab. Furthermore, colleges are always a decade behind the real world in technical skills and technology. Example: Almost all computer animation college programs lack even a single class on real-time animation, the most important new technology in that industry.
2. College has become absurdly expensive.
How many thousands of times have you read about recent college graduates who can't get a decent job in their field but are nonetheless saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt? By contrast, how many times have you heard successful entrepreneurs say: "Wow, I'm sure glad I graduated from college"? Like never, right? Look, if you're going to spend yourself $50,000 into debt, do you want to end up with a useless, largely symbolic degree? Or do you want to own a business that cost $50,000 to start?
3. College doesn't impress recruiters anyway.
Let's suppose you want to start your own business but you're banking on your college degree as a backup plan, as in "I'll give this startup my best shot, but if I fail I can use my degree to get a job." Well, IMHO, if you're thinking that way, you're setting yourself up to fail as an entrepreneur, but whatever. Let's suppose it's a reasonable plan. Hate to tell you, but recruiters are far more impressed by an effort to start your own company than whatever cookie-cutter degree you managed to eke out of the college system. Even fancy Ivy League degrees don't have much cachet any longer.
4. Employers hire contractors, not employees.
According to a recent study conducted by Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, "the current growth of freelancing is estimated to be three times faster than that of the traditional workforce, with approximately 47 percent of working Millennials now working in some freelance capacity. At the current growth rate, the majority of the U.S. workforce will freelance by 2027." Freelance positions lack benefits and pay less, thus making it more difficult to put aside the money you'll need to start your business. Can you spell "dead-end street," boys and girls?
5. Employers legally limit your options.
You may think you're gaining valuable experience and contacts that you can use to launch your own business, but chances are that your employee agreement or "work for hire" agreement vastly limits your ability to use whatever you've learned. You might launch your business and find yourself at the short end of a lawsuit, from a company that can afford an entire staff of lawyers to make sure you're properly crushed.
6. Résumés don't impress investors.
Investors don't give a rodent's posterior about your college experience. They also don't value your work experience much more than that, unless what you were doing was directly relevant to building and running the company you're envisioning. Investors want people who've successfully started their own businesses or, at the very least, somebody who's gained the valuable experience of starting a business that didn't pan out.
7. Exuberance is a limited resource.
You may think all the long hours and hard work working for somebody else is preparing you for the long hours and hard work you'll need to make your startup successful. But you'd think wrong. That employer's plan is to burn through your youthful energy and enthusiasm until you're an empty husk. Even if you keep your spirits up and your body in tiptop shape while the employer tries to suck you dry, as you get older, you will inevitably find it more difficult to summon extra oomph. Far better to expend your youthful exuberance making your own business a success, rather than lining someone else's pockets, right?