Young people are the future. Kids, teens, and young adults (20s) in today’s society are generally more educated and worldlier than any generation before them, thanks in large part to the Internet and an increasingly competitive educational and career atmosphere. These young people have grown up with technology always being a part of their lives, and get to take advantage of everyday luxuries that most of today’s adults could never have dreamed of at their age (smart phones, GPS, social media, etc.). But what is more interesting is how this generation is responding to what is projected to be a very difficult future, with personal debt averages and cost of living rising, and the job market shrinking (especially for those without advanced degrees). Instead of burying their heads in the sand, this generation is fighting back—but not by writing lyrics and riffs to songs about defiance and social justice—by building themselves a new future through startups.
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In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, garage bands were a way for disgruntled youth to ban together and speak out about moral and societal issues and connect people through the power of music, despite the reality that most likely they would never be famous or make a huge profit. It was all about being part of something. Today, startup companies are doing the same thing—young people (but also people of all ages) coming together to work on projects aiming to address societal issues, solve problems, and connect people—despite the strong possibility of failure. Many of the individuals working for startups left other jobs at larger companies, making the decision to give up job stability in exchange for the possibility of making an impact and being in on the ground level of something that will grow to be tremendous. In fact, according to a quote from Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and -CEO of Warby Parker, “a startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.”
The explosion of startups began in Silicon Valley, CA with tech companies and has spread across the country all the way to New York and Washington, DC, evolving into what is now a full-blown movement: the Startup Culture. This subculture of entrepreneurs are focused on finding a sleek team capable of working together effectively and efficiently to solve a problem (by providing a service or building a product). A startup has a lifespan of roughly three years… that is to say, within three years the start-up either grows to become a larger business or fails, and the large majority of startups fail. Thus, the Startup Culture is defined by individuals who are united in ambition, grit, resilience, confidence, and guts.
But outside of this subculture, society as a whole is embracing the idea of startup companies and the opportunities they offer for creative problem-solving and alternative career choices. Shows like Silicon Valley are giving folks a (hilarious and fictional, but more or less accurate) inside look at the startup world and positioning startup workers as the loveable underdogs, and inexpensive shared workspaces are popping up in cities all over the country, giving small startups teams rented access to workstations and workspaces, internet, etc. without taking a huge chunk out of their budgets. Even the White House is in on the action, introducing the Startup America initiative in 2012 with the goal of celebrating, inspiring, and accelerating high-growth entrepreneurship in the United States. “After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in startups and small businesses,” said President Barack Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address.
So, are startups the new garage bands, and startup CEOs the new rock stars? In some circles, definitely… And just like rock and roll, the startup culture it is here to stay.