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Millennials and Entrepreneurship

On Friday, May 8th, we attended a City Club program titled "Millennials and Entrepreneurship: A Conversation About Engaging the Next Generation" which was a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Deborah D. Hoover, President and CEO, of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation. The panel featured Mr. Andrew Yang, Founder and CEO, Venture for America; Dr. Scott Shane, Ph.D., A Malchi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at CWRU; and Ms. Lena Kelly, Fellow, Venture for America and Digital Storyteller, BoxCast.

At the beginning of the discussion, Ms. Hoover pointed out that 2/3 of educational institutions offer some kind of entrepreneurial training due to student demands. But only 16% actually go out and start small businesses due to lack of financial and resource support. The question is what to do to encourage support in this area.

Mr. Yang and Ms. Kelly talked about Venture for America (VFA) which was started by Mr. Yang in 2011 in order to, "channel talented young people to early-stage companies in Detroit, New Orleans, Providence and other U.S. cities to train as entrepreneurs. This would help the companies succeed and created jobs in these communities. It would also prepare our young people to go on to become the builders and entrepreneurs our country needs."

Ms. Kelly talked about how her involvement with VFA has opened many doors for her and connected her with people that she probably would not have otherwise known. She said that she can't imagine another situation where she would have learned so much so quickly. In terms having to re-locate from Los Angeles to Cleveland, she likes it here a lot and has had several of her friends come stay with her who previously had negative perceptions of Cleveland but once they actually spent a few days here they were won over.

Dr. Shane reviewed the statistics which were not too promising for young entrepreneurism. Contrary to what the perception that the media helped create, very few college young college grads choose to be entrepreneurs because of the security element, the need to pay off their own college costs, and, as Ms. Hoover said, the lack of the necessary resources. This is particularly true of middle-class young people whose families really struggled to put them through college. A lower-class entrepreneur has little to lose with only one direction to go and someone of the upper class can often afford to lose money.

Dr. Shane pointed out though that his data defined "entrepreneur" as someone who starts a business that grows; not a business that starts small and stays small but is successful. When we asked him about immigrant-owned businesses, he said that his data contended that immigrant startups are only slightly higher that those of people who were born in the United States...but the statistics varied depending on what country the person immigrated from and what industry he was involved in.

All of the panelists agreed that high school programs for budding entrepreneurs are a good thing because, if not else, the young people involved in them are more likely to go to college and they learn the value of money.

During lunch we shared a table with Dr. Robert Means and several people from "LaunchHouse" in Shaker Heights which strives to assist entrepreneurs and is supported by Ms. Margaret W. Wong. According to what Dr. Means told us and from what we read on its website, "LaunchHouse" "provides a collaborative ecosystem designed to foster entrepreneurship through education, coworking, and a vast resource network...We believe that educating entrepreneurs and providing them with the knowledge and the tools to succeed is the best way to help the region to prosper and create sustainable jobs for the future...Since its inception in 2008, LaunchHouse has grown a portfolio of 62 companies that have raised more than $20 million in follow-on funding."

Dr. Means invited us over to "LaunchHouse" to see how they work and we look forward to taking him up on it.

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