Generation Startup is a documentary I just started watching on Netflix. It follows young entrepreneurs and employees of other startups as they try to make new companies successful. In the first ten minutes, several things have already caught my attention. Are low numbers of young entrepreneurs caused by our broken education system?
The number of young entrepreneurs is at a low
“Entrepreneurship among 18 to 30 year olds is at a 24 year low.” Source: Generation Startup
This is discouraging because I had hoped that as broken as our education is, at least it was still turning out entrepreneurs. But with low numbers of entrepreneurs among the most recent graduates, that strength may be in the past.
At the elite schools, Finance is still seen as the least risky, #1 Job choice
One of the young entrepreneurs featured is a recent graduate of Cornell. He says that according to students at Cornell there are only “a few [job] options, consulting or banking in New York or maybe Big Tech out in Silicon Valley.” (Avery Hairston)
Going to work for a startup in Detroit is seen as a real risk, an anomaly. All of the recent graduates are at least a little uncomfortable with the idea of doing something different from all their peers.
These young people are extremely uncomfortable with not being immediately successful
Even when they are learning new skills.
And these are the ones who are brave enough to even try.
It’s not that these young entrepreneurs weren’t well prepared. They went to universities who are proud to only admit students who are proven leaders, risk-takers who excel. and mold them into even more successful leaders. The young entrepreneurs in this film are from schools like John Hopkins, Cornell, and MIT.
But these young people are not used to failing.
And the thought of failing is terrifying.
This was expressed best in Generation Sartup by the entrepreneur who learned how to code for her new job. “For someone who’s used to being … good at school, and life – maybe not life, but at least school, to be so bad at something [is] hard. And sometimes really demotivating.” (Kate Catlin)
I can’t help but notice also that she rethought “being good at life” and settled for just “good at school.” That is how much these recent graduates doubt themselves. At the same time it confirms something that keeps me up at night. That being good at school won’t teach you how to be good at life.
When school, homework, and extracurriculars needed for college applications take up all your time, when do you have time to become “good at life?”
Young people are used to being told exactly what to do. In school they are trained to do everything by a formula.
This is exactly what the documentary Most Likely to Succeed warns is a danger in our current education system.
“In school there are metrics. You know, there’s an equation and you solve for X and that’s what you do. But now there’s no more of that. You kind of just figure it out. Whatever that means.” (Dextina Booker) And this quote came from a graduate of MIT in mechanical engineering. A school that prides itself on thinking outside of the box.
Hope in young entrepreneurs
I do admire the willingness of everyone featured in this film to try. You’ll find yourself rooting for each one.
With young people like these, there is hope for the future yet, no matter how hard it is.