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The entrepreneurial leap looks a lot different for today’s young professionals. While most baby boomers don’t see entrepreneurship as a way to make a quick buck, millennials have watched their peers — people like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel — do just that. They make it seem like every code-slinging 20-something has millions of dollars at his fingertips. That could be why more than half of all millennials recently surveyed in the US said they wanted to become entrepreneurs.
Despite that desire, however, the number of private business owners under age 30 is the lowest it has been in 24 years.
Millennials may be pushing the envelope with innovative ideas, but there are so many of them going after capital that they’re getting in each other’s way. And as a young entrepreneur, you’re facing some challenges that baby boomers couldn’t even dream of.
Break through the barriers
Millennials have a strong desire to pursue their passions and find their own path to success. Living the entrepreneurial dream is both admirable and possible, but it’s also full of hurdles. In addition to market saturation, Millennials have to overcome educational debt, underemployment, and a high rate of failure.
Here are four ways you can jump these hurdles:
1. Cut through the noise
Being an entrepreneur is sexy, and the barrier to entry is significantly lower than it used to be. Consequently, there’s more noise to cut through if you want to be noticed, get funded, and be taken seriously.
To stand out in a saturated market where investors are flooded with pitches, you have to be much better than your competition. Stakeholders will take notice if you’ve taken the time to do your research, understand the marketplace, and create a compelling value proposition. Be polished, be confident, and be realistic about exactly what you want.
2. Take advantage of university resources
It’s incredibly difficult to start your own company when you’re already in debt. With education costs at an all-time high, it’s tempting to skip the college degree. Making money sounds better than spending it, but college is more than a degree machine.
Most universities have programs for aspiring entrepreneurs, offer access to technology, and provide opportunities to obtain proof of concept. College is also a great test market for your business or concept. You might even be able to integrate your business into a class project, allowing you to leverage professors as mentors and students as audience members for market research.
3. Capitalise on underemployment
Millennials are having a hard time finding their place in today’s workforce. According to a Kauffman Foundation report, “Coming of age during the Great Recession has reduced Millennials’ overall wealth and hurt their ability to gain relevant job experience.”
But as an entrepreneur, you can make underemployment work to your advantage. There’s a lot of prime talent for you to hire at post-college salaries. Many millennials are educated, tech-savvy, and hungry for success — and you can snag them for your team.
4. Be a student of your craft
There’s no shortage of media stories about startups that have fallen by the wayside. There’s a lot of risk associated with entrepreneurship, but there are also simple ways to mitigate the risks for higher gain.
The single best thing you can do to overcome the high rate of failure is to learn from other people’s missteps. If you want to become an entrepreneur, it’s not enough to know your business and try to emulate those who have succeeded. It’s critical to be constantly learning and growing. Understand why your predecessors failed to avoid repeating their mistakes.
Adam Ghetti, one of Forbes’ 2014 30 Under 30 tech thought leaders and a member of Dell’s Founders Club, is a great example of a Millennial entrepreneur who has achieved success despite barriers. In 2011, he launched Ionic Security, a data security platform that encrypts content when it’s created. After carefully gauging the market, he broadened his scope. Ionic Security is now arguably one of the hottest cybersecurity companies on the market, and earlier this year, it acquired more than US$40-million in new funding.
For Ghetti and many others, overcoming the barriers to millennial entrepreneurship is all about being smarter, faster, and more nimble than the competition. You can’t just be smart about your company; you need to be educated on your industry’s trends and what’s happening across the overall landscape.
Being fast doesn’t mean you can put out a half-baked product; it means understanding that the market is constantly shifting and that you eventually need to let go of research and development and dive in. Know when you need to shift your strategy, hire new employees, or come up with a different concept. Then, don’t be afraid to take the plunge.
Image by Sebastiano Pitruzzello via Flickr