Today's venture capital community and media have heavily emphasized the youth oriented nature of entrepreneurship. While young entrepreneurs populate the front covers of today's magazine covers, they are part of a bigger entrepreneurship ecosystem. From serial entrepreneurs with decades of experience to hobbyists turned business owners, there is a complete spectrum of entrepreneurship that has been overlooked by the media and those providing startup resources.
As the global economy continues to undergo significant structural changes, the need to promote entrepreneurship has never been greater. Between the fundamental economic structural changes caused by globalization and technology, to the increasing business competitiveness in all economic sectors, the normal economic paradigm between employee and employer is being dramatically upended.
Norms such as defined pensions, subsidized health care and a defined career path are becoming extinct. In their place, employees are being forced to subsidize or find their own health care and pensions, define their own career paths and expect to work for multiple employers during their career. In many respects, the same uncertainty that is part and parcel of entrepreneurship is now encroaching into the employee-employer paradigm.
While there are many similarities between entrepreneurs and employees, the media chooses to only focus on a narrow portion of the entrepreneurial discussion. If the new norm is a state of quasi-entrepreneurship, then the high level interest in entrepreneurship from future employees is all the more warranted. Entrepreneurship provides individuals with the skills to survive in the new dynamic economy. From self-promotion to strategic position, entrepreneurs have the skills that today's employees need to survive.
The success of the new global economy is increasingly dependent on entrepreneurs. With multinational corporations becoming more efficient via automation and the global population continuing to grow, there is an increasing need for more participants in the global economy to become active participants rather than passive bystanders.
Increasingly, it is necessary for individuals to think of themselves not as employees but more as entrepreneurs. That shift in mindset must happen at all levels from the entry level employee to the CEO. Society is seeing this mental shift at more senior levels with the rise of celebrity CEOs and superstar sales performers who move from organization to organization for short temporary stints, but it is necessary to spread this mentality down to the junior ranks.
So what does this mental shift have to do with entrepreneurship? The simple reality is that the media's focus on "youth" entrepreneurship while compelling is only part of the story. Society needs more entrepreneurs and it must not only be one type of entrepreneurship. Just as the startup ecosystem has produced a variety of companies producing a variety of products and services, society needs to start acknowledging that entrepreneurship comes in a variety of packages.
The numerous success stories in the media focus on the Millennial Generation of entrepreneurs. Whether it is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or the Stanford University founders of SnapChat, the media message concerning entrepreneurship has been one based on youth and the instant success stories that have been generated thus far. There is nothing wrong with highlighting these success stories, since they act as inspirational examples for all the grueling hours, countless funding rejections and unstable cash flows that all entrepreneurs must go through before achieving success. However, one must remember that there is more than one type of entrepreneur in the startup ecosystem.
One can easily see the allure of focusing on Millennial entrepreneurs. Their youth and inexperience allows them develop innovative solutions and ideas and their low overhead enables to them to work on what Y Combinator's Paul Graham famously called the "ramen diet" where the only food entrepreneurs can afford is ramen noodles. Unfortunately, relying on Millennial entrepreneurs can only power a fraction of the economy. What is increasingly needed is the recognition that there is a diverse palette of entrepreneurs who are solving problems in many contexts.
So what are these diverse types of entrepreneurs? Some varying types of entrepreneurs that have been overlooked include:
(1) The Part Time Entrepreneur: Not everyone can live solely on the "ramen diet". There are thousands of entrepreneurs who have both financial and non-financial obligations that they must attend to, but still have the entrepreneurial spirit. Thus, they are balancing the two by undertaking entrepreneurship on a part-time basis.
(2) The Baby Boomer Entrepreneur: As thousands of Baby Boomers are caught in the shifting dynamics of the global economy, many are taking the opportunity to remake themselves and pursue projects that they thought they would not be able to achieve until retirement.
(3) The Global Entrepreneur: As a new generation of business leaders prepares to take the reins of the global economy, a number of them are asking why can't this economic cycle be the first to have truly global entrepreneurs? With a generation that is increasingly diverse and multicultural, many entrepreneurs are attempting to create startups that have a global context already built in.
(4) The Socially Conscious Entrepreneur: With the foundational changes that are occurring in the global economy, individuals are increasingly refusing to compromise their personal values for the sake of employment. They are increasingly demanding that the values of their employer match their personal ones.
The varying types of entrepreneurs described above are just a few of the many facets that now populate the rich developing startup ecosystem that has been ignored by the media and the current crop of startup resources. To rectify this oversight, a new series of blog posts will be uploaded over the next few months under the title "Entrepreneurs: A Diverse Mosaic: The Series". The series will highlight new and interesting entrepreneurs and their startups that break the current Silicon Valley stereotype of a Millennial Generation programmer to demonstrate that entrepreneurship comes in all forms.
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