The Myth of the Millennial Entrepreneur

The number of people under 30 years old who own a business is at a quarter-century low, and down 65 percent since the 1980s. For the moment at least, the idea of Millennials taking the world by storm as entrepreneurs is largely fantasy. Derek Thompson explains in an article for the Atlantic.


Although one magazine claims that “60 percent of Millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs, and 90 percent recognize entrepreneurship as a mentality,” the mindset does not yet match the reality. Part of the reason is that student debt increased by an average of 77 percent between 2004 and 2014; I suppose having a net worth of negative dollars makes it harder to get a business loan. But beyond that, it just might seem more practical to take a salaried position amidst such dire economic circumstances.

Furthermore, when new businesses open, the majority are not innovation shops—more likely they are coffee shops. Giants like Amazon and even Rite Aid own such a substantial fraction of their markets that the opportunities to compete on a big stage are slim. As Thompson notes, “Facebook owns four of the five most downloaded apps—Whatsapp, Messenger, Facebook, and Instagram.”

The silver lining is that most successful business ideas are dreamed up while working for somebody else, so the pressure to become Zuckerberg right away is neither necessary nor practical. In fact, 40 years old seems to be the present most successful age to launch a business. Thus, there is still time for Millennials’ capabilities to catch up with their ambitions.

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