The first generation of digital natives, raised in prosperity, ambitious and driven by different values than their predecessors. Millennials are much discussed, are trapped in a system that actually does not suit them and partly because of this deserve an extra chance to be able to do business, says Robbert Jan Hanse, CEO and founder of venture builder Holland Startup. “By investing you prove that you believe in someone.”
It may not be so noticeable in the Netherlands, but worldwide the millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – are the largest generation since the baby boomers. Something that is not only visible in Africa and Asia, for example, but also in the United States, reported Pew Research a while ago† And that will have an impact on the design of society. Think, for example, of voting behaviour, use of mobility, living and working. Change is visible on many fronts, such as less car ownership, shorter and more flexible employment relationships and the growing number of cordcutters, who no longer care about television but do everything via the smartphone.
And so more and more things will change. The older generation is less able to imagine that, so we have to look for entrepreneurship in people who have the right imagination, says Hanse. “Everyone looks at the world with the technology of the time in which they were born in mind. Millennials are the first generation of digital natives and are therefore better able to understand the current state of technology and make it work for them. They are used to the speed and possibilities of doing business online. So it makes sense to build businesses with them.”
Easy to insert
There are more promising characteristics and conditions for young entrepreneurship, Hanse continues. In the West, for example, many young people have wealthy parents, which means they are highly educated. At the same time, they have the knowledge that they are not as fortunate as their parents were back then, and the world needs positive change, which makes them driven. Plus: where the focus used to be on studying hard to get a nice job for life at a multinational, for many people owning their own company has become the new dream. A dream that also requires much less start-up capital. After all, it has never been so cheap to start a business, at least in the tech sector. Major investments in business equipment are no longer necessary: cloud-based work can be done and many services are easy to 'pin in'.
Despite the relatively low threshold for entrepreneurship, it is still necessary to facilitate young entrepreneurs. For example, it remains a challenge to spot opportunities and find the right market. Plus: boosting entrepreneurship among Western young people is necessary to remain innovative and competitive on the world stage, says Hanse. A lot is happening in emerging markets in Africa and Asia, among others, due to the great drive for progress. In Europe we are more concerned with preserving what we have, then innovation declines. “You see Baby boomers consolidating, investment is declining. West European millennials are the victims of that.”
According to Hanse, the image that millennials are job hoppers who show little commitment is wrong. “The bar they set their performance against is different,” he explains. “Personal development is higher than earning the highest salary or driving the most beautiful car. So if a company doesn't offer that, we're out." This is also why startups are popular, Hanse sees. “It's basically a mini MBA, even if you fail, you learn a lot from it. And therefore an excellent opportunity to develop yourself.”
Exploiting the potential outlined requires a different way of investing: not waiting until a company already has a big turnover and you know for sure that every euro you put in will come out in threefold – “That is not investing, but investing” – but provide funding and guidance from the start. “By investing you prove that you believe in someone.”
In addition to financial strength, there is a particular need for direction and structure, according to the experiences at Holland Startup. Being born in a welfare state where everything is already there can create uncertainty and make it difficult to know your path forward, says Hanse. “We notice that young entrepreneurs develop very quickly if you guide them systematically and constructively. So that they can build a society that suits them.”
Do you also want to start your own company? Come to our free webinar Meet Holland Startup† We are happy to tell you more about it.