If you're still talking about Millennials, you're late to the party. At a whopping 60 million, Gen Z - our youngest and most digitally connected generation yet - far outnumber their older counterparts. The oldest members of Generation Z were born after 1995 and are prepping for their sophomore year of college, but a majority are unfamiliar with a world before Google, let alone the Internet.
As we've seen with Millennials, Gen Z is quickly gaining a reputation for being glued to their screens, unable to focus on anything for more than eight seconds. While generalizations like these are ever-present, they're hardly useful and can often lead to frustration. They do however, reveal an interesting point about how we measure the generations that come after us.
When looking at modern business practices and entrepreneurship, it can be all too easy to apply a tried and tested model to every incoming wave of business owners. Measuring Gen Z by the standards we've imposed on earlier generations only hinders our ability to learn from them. Simply put, we've never seen anything quite like this before.
Gen Z are undoubtedly the first true digital natives, but they've also grown up in the shadow of 9/11 and two financial collapses. As a result, they're growing up much faster than we think. Their outlook towards making a difference in the world is outstandingly positive -- this is very much a product of the growing interconnectedness they are immersed in. According to a recent MTV report, 91 percent of surveyed Gen Z-ers technology has helped them become more understanding of people from different backgrounds and are optimistic that their generation can help build "a better world."
Their unique position allows us to gain some insights from their behavior and predict what entrepreneurship could look like in a time when technology is rewriting the rules of business. Here are some ways in which this newest group of influencers think differently:
They Think About Smartphones Differently
Having grown up in the heart of the smartphone and big data boom in the late 90s and early 2000s, Gen Z are the most comfortable on the devices. By 2020, Gen Z will make up 40 percent of all U.S. consumers. Understanding how and what they use their smartphones for can teach us a lot about their consumer behavior.
As entrepreneurs, they may be more likely to adopt the near-limitless functionality of Big Data and smartphone technology to outsource tasks like calendar organization, banking and accounting to apps and software. With their lives increasingly shaped and informed through the lens of social media, their entrepreneurial inclinations will revolve around building businesses that fit in their small screens.
They Think About Businesses Differently
By nature of their financially turbulent upbringing, it's unsurprising that Gen Z will be more sensible with their pockets. They are also more entrepreneurial. A survey from Global Messaging reports that 72 percent want to start their own business. With a profusion of information available instantly at their fingertips, they're much more likely to be self-starters and self-educators, who will need less time to get their feet off the ground.
They will have an opportunist approach to entrepreneurship, mastering the art of the side-hustle to effectively monetize their skill sets, leveraging not only social media platforms like Youtube and Vine but also on-demand marketplaces like TaskRabbit.
They Think About Business Owners Differently
As a result of being surrounded by social media at an early age, Gen Z won't just be business owners but managers to their personal brand as well. These two entities will be interconnected. Their businesses are more likely to be passion projects that reflect some aspect of their identity, seeking inspiration from social-entrepreneurial personalities like Bethany Mota and Lilly Singh.
Going a step further than their Millennial predecessors, Gen Z entrepreneurs also seem to value autonomy as one of their most important career goals. A global survey from Universum reports that 32% of Gen Z respondents would rather not work for someone else, as opposed to 22% of Millennials. The same survey also cited a significant blurring between work and home, with a mere 40% of Gen Z respondents who considered a work-life balance to be essential.
Ultimately, with smartphones in hand, a socially conscious outlook and a self-starting attitude, Gen Z will soon be at the center of a big shift in the way we do business. Learning from them means understanding what kinds of entrepreneurs they will soon be: always on, engaged, and interconnected.