Summary: 'Upstarts!: How Gen Y Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World'
By Rolf Dobelli, Chairman, getAbstract
Small-business expert Donna Fenn reports on the impact of Gen Y "upstarts" on the world of commerce. Entrepreneurial in spirit, as well as bold and brash, many Gen Yers have already formed their own highly lucrative companies. Indeed, some are now grizzled business veterans, having started their companies while they were still in high school.
Many of their firms are Internet-based, while others are in more traditional business sectors. On the web and in other industries, Gen Y companies differentiate themselves from the competition through clever use of technology, superior branding and imaginative business practices.
getAbstract recommends Fenn's book to older businesspeople who want to know how these trendsetters operate and how to sell to the massive, affluent Gen Y market. This book also serves as a valuable learner's manual for Gen Y members who want to create their own businesses, but have not done so - yet.
Here Come the "Upstarts"
In 1998, Joel Erb was traveling from his home in Richmond, Virginia, to New York City in a limousine. His driver ceremoniously opened doors for him and addressed him as "Mr. Erb." At the time, Erb was all of 14 years old, and doing Internet design from his bedroom in his parents' home. Upon meeting him, one executive asked, "Have you even reached puberty?" Things did not go any better for Erb at his second meeting. But at the third, the executive said the magic words: "How much?" Erb received a $30,000 contract to create the company's Internet banner ads.
Erb quickly formed his own company, INM United. Before long, it had earned $1 million. Then came 9/11. Erb lost most of his business. Afterward, he enrolled at the University of Richmond and reconfigured INM into an integrated marketing company. He now employs 12 people, and his revenues in 2008 were more than $1 million. At 26, Erb has been self-employed for considerably longer than he has been permitted to drink legally.
Erb is not an anomaly. Many members of his age cohort, Generation Y (the 77 million people born between 1977 and 1997), started their companies when they were in their 20s or younger. Think of them as the "entrepreneurial generation" or the "upstarts." These young entrepreneurs will have a dramatic effect on the U.S. economy and small businesses. Their business approach is unique. They are brash and confident, and want to do things their own way. Starting companies does not intimidate them.
According to the Institute for the Future and the software company Intuit, "Generation Y will emerge as the most entrepreneurial generation ever." A Junior Achievement Worldwide poll of 1,200 teenagers shows that 69% want to open their own firms. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that almost two-thirds of college students share the same desire. Today, about 2,100 U.S. colleges and universities offer courses on entrepreneurship, up from 400 a decade ago. However, many of their students could teach such courses themselves: "40% or more of students who come into our undergraduate entrepreneurship program as freshmen already have a business," says Jeff Cornwall of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Gen Y entrepreneurs often use their technological know-how to start their enterprises. Thanks to the Internet's anonymity, many Gen Y entrepreneurs can pass themselves off as old-hand Web designers and Internet pros. Frequently, Gen Y entrepreneurs don't do a lot of planning before they start their businesses. The thought process goes something like this...
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