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How Millennials are conditioned to be entrepreneurs

Millennials are increasingly entrepreneurial for four main reasons that we detail here. The generation is young, ready to work, and aiming to change the world, and with help, they just might.

The entrepreneur generation

Recently, The Harvard Business Review referred to Millennials as “the MacGuyvers of Business,” telling the story of a young entrepreneur who spent time inside a hospital observing staff and determining how they could make the staff more sanitized without their having to go out of their way while at the same time saving the hospital money and potentially saving the 100,000 American lives lost every year to infections transmitted in health care facilities. The young team did not spend a fortune on study groups (nor did Steve Jobs), and they didn’t wine and dine the hospital’s Board of Directors to discover their desires, they trusted their intuition and have since launched a growing company that is experiencing burgeoning success.

1. Education

So why are Millennials conditioned to be entrepreneurs? Several reasons – first, that company mentioned above built on intuition is successful because the team thought outside of the box, a practice that even the worst of public school systems is increasingly trying to promote. Millennials have been taught through alternative methods, and the charter school concept has exploded in the last decade, leading to a very specialized education of students that have not even hit the halls of a University yet.

Educators have innovated in recent years to not only accommodate special needs children but to engage creative children. Even math classes in the last 20 years have moved from memorizing formulas for regurgitation to more creative real world applications of formulas. The school systems are failing in many ways, but many Millennials (not all) have grown up in an environment that promotes higher level thinking that allows them to sit in a hospital and watch people to find legitimate solutions, rather than schmooze execs for a buck.

2. The American Dream

Millennials are also conditioned to be entrepreneurs because the American Dream has changed. Most people under 30 are not married and most do not have children. Many are college educated, but many left college in pursuit of other endeavors. The idea of homeownership has changed and the stigma of renting is dying. The concept of working in a high rise building in a suit and carrying a briefcase is not necessarily the goal anymore – Mad Men is a television show, not a desired reality for Millennials.

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In other words, the nuclear family in the three bedroom ranch house on an acre and a steady corporate job is no longer the national standard of the American Dream. No, the Dream is to be successful and happy. Note, “rich,” or “famous,” or “married,” was not in the list of what makes up the Dream. As a Millennial, I can tell you that almost everyone I know near my age is more interested in flexible work schedules so they can travel or take cooking classes, and almost everyone would much rather build a company from scratch that they continue to bootstrap than to bow down to a corporate master that treats them poorly.

3. Measured risk

Besides schooling and a shifting American standard, Millennials are prone to measured risk and failure is not as socially devastating as in generations past. Millennials are fixers and innovators, and are among the most generous generations with the highest buying power that currently exists. Millennials are conditioned to be entrepreneurs not because they were told by Barney the Dinosaur that they can be anything they want to be, but because their role models are so frequently other entrepreneurs that failed five times before the sixth success that not only launched them, but changed the world.

4. Parents’ influence

Lastly, Millennials watched their parents work long hours and slave to give them a better life and most are so very grateful. Travel, music, philanthropy and time away from work are very important to many Millennials and being an entrepreneur can (note: can) lead to a life more conducive to supporting a family and being able to spend time with them without having to clock in and clock out at an hourly rate that rarely goes up or being stressed by the traditional grind.

Additionally, parents of Millennials are often highly encouraging and young entrepreneurs often know that if they fail, their parents’ house is open. Some believe the generation has been coddled by parents who were overly encouraging and gave gold stars to all participants, even the losers, but the encouragement and soft landing pad has given rise not to self-righteous children, but people willing to get their hands dirty, get creative, and know that if they don’t change the world on their first try, they’ll have another chance. And probably another.

The Millennial shift

Many think Millennials are selfish – so few are married or parents. Some think that Millennials are spoiled – they often expect to be the boss of a company when they walk in at age 21 because they have a prestigious degree. Others think that Millennials are silly – the generation takes risks, is willing to be creative, and willing to fail, but those factors are not silly.

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Sure, there is a downside to having a generation that has been raised to chase dreams (failed investments, bad products, etc.), but the upside of a generation finishing college to start their own business with the goal of solving worldly problems is admirable as the American dream shifts once again.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Drew Meyers

    March 15, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Yup..I’m a millennial, and VERY entrepreneurial. Couldn’t agree more with the shift in the american dream.

    My mind is a crazy sea of business ideas…which I’m now going to share on 🙂

  2. Puneet Lakhi

    March 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I think more and more millenials are getting frustrated with the longer hours and lower pay they’re facing in the corporate world. By creating their own business, they can see a more equitable return from their work, have a more flexible working environment, and control the direction of their work.

    This generation has been called “Entitled”, but I think more than that, we’re just a more confident generation. We’re not willing to take a beat down by bosses who don’t know as much, and have real goals and aspirations to change the world rather than to endure the status quo. I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed about this, and that as such, entrepreneurship should be even more celebrated amongst our generation.

    Puneet Lakhi
    Founder, – Young Entrepreneur Network

  3. Tom Natan

    March 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    And yet, in today’s Washington Post, a story about how milennials are less environmentally-minded and less civic-minded than their parents were when they were young. One could be less than charitable and attribute this willingness to be entrepreneurs as a symptom of their self-centeredness as well.

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