We’ve all heard the condescending stereotypes about Millennials. They’re lazy, undisciplined, entitled, and everything else Generation X once was (and Baby Boomers before them).
But as Adam Conover pointed out at his Deep Shift presentation, Millennials don’t actually exist.
Millennial stereotypes are nothing more than older people blaming younger people for today’s problems. In reality, Millennials grew up in a high-tech, connected, automated society. They’re better educated and growing up in an economy with fewer job options.
With the economy stagnant, Millennial entrepreneurs are the key to revitalizing America in ways no President is capable of.
The Best Time Ever to Be an Entrepreneur
There’s never been a time in human history where small businesses and entrepreneurs could compete with, and even outperform, major corporations. Online shopping in the U.S. alone generated $1.805 billion of revenue in 2015.
Ecommerce and other tech companies like Facebook and Amazon seemed to be the pinnacle of technology, but soon AirBnB, Uber, and other unicorn and dragon startups began appearing all over Silicon Valley and beyond. Advances in technology give younger, leaner entrepreneurs an opportunity to disrupt the old guard just like Uber and Lyft did to taxis and rental cars.
- Mobile and Wifi
More and more Internet usage is used by mobile devices, with WeAreSocial estimating over 4.5 petabytes (millions of gigabytes) used monthly during the 4th quarter of 2015. In addition, wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon are currently bidding on more bandwidth in the FCC’s wireless spectrum auction.
Being more adept with technology, Millennials are now able to work on mobile devices while on the go with the same or higher productivity than older, tethered generations. Typing speed was once a coveted administrative skill, but Millennials are more likely to Swype, talk, and use alternative inputs with faster results than mechanical typing.
- Internet of Things
At its core, the Internet of Things enabled real-time data collection and analysis like never before. By 2015, analysts predict over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. With smart equipment, a small team can optimize processes and outperform established businesses.
Entrepreneurs excel at thinking outside the box, and being immersed in technology at younger ages than previous generations, Millennial entrepreneurs are much more likely to use IoT technology in innovative new ways.
Jumpstarted by Fitbit’s $745 million revenue and Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014, wearable technology has finally penetrated the consumer market. Although most corporations and other large organizations have used wearable technology for over a decade, access to small businesses and entrepreneurs was traditionally limited.
With consumer’s having access to wearable technology, everything from telemedicine to geotracked marketing becomes a viable solution. Younger generations adapt to new technology faster, and Millennial entrepreneurs are more likely to understand our future needs in augmented and virtual reality and other wearable interfaces.
- Automation and AI
Because of advances in artificial intelligence and automated tools, a single, trained person can perform the work of thousands of workers by simply running automated scripts. Online tools exist to automate social media, web optimization, sales tracking, data entry, and more. Whatever can’t be automated can be crowdsourced.
Millennials have access to more automated tools than ever before and are more likely to have the time and skills necessary to create proprietary tools. Even existing corporations that survive will do so by purchasing companies created by Millennial entrepreneurs (i.e. Facebook’s purchases of Oculus, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc.).
The Wisdom of Youth
Prior generations were used to a more structured lifestyle in which you chose a career path based on your degree (or lack thereof), bought a house, car, and started a family. Millennials have different options.
There’s no need for a mortgage or car loan when you can use AirBnB, Uber, Couchsurfing, or Craigslist to buy, sell, barter, or trade for what you need. You can even work freelance for these two-sided marketplaces instead of getting a corporate job in a cubicle.
Virtual teams made up of remote workers with flexible schedules are becoming more prolific. Today’s work environment is vastly different, depending on the age and industry of the company you’re working for. Most older generations simply go with the flow and do what they’re used to, blaming their failures on those young whippersnapper Millennials.
But today’s youth saw the mistakes their parents made during the housing crisis and economic downturn. They saw the failings of government and largely supported Occupy, Anonymous, Wikileaks, and other organizations. Technology is moving faster than the people running it, and disruption from Millennials is inevitable.
Industries to Consider Disrupting
If you’re a Millennial, the statistics show you’re likely to have a job unrelated to your degree. You probably worked a free internship and are underpaid even if you landed your dream job. My advice is to learn how things work, and then strike out on your own.
Manufacturing is easier and cheaper than ever before, especially in the United States. Ecommerce is continuing to grow, as retailers rush to find delivery and distribution. Gray markets like the cannabis and vape industries continue to thrive, despite facing tough regulations.
The financial technology industry is currently experiencing an arms race as everyone from Bank of America to Samsung fights for your business. Insurance companies are now competing with a device that plugs into a vehicle’s diagnostic port, and companies are crowdfunding as a way to avoid traditional financing.
Everywhere you look, there’s an opportunity for technology to make everyone’s lives easier, sometimes without them even knowing it. It’s with the eyes of youth that you’re best able to see these things. Older generations are just jealous that they’ll never have the opportunities Millennials have today.
And there’s no better time to start than right now.