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New Generation of Entrepreneurs

MSN Business on Main September 20, 2011

Starting a business is a challenge for anyone.

But starting one when youre a 19-year-old college student? Thats even harder. Yet thats exactly what Ted Gonder did. Gonder, now 21 and a senior majoring in geography at the University of Chicago, is the co-founder and executive director of Moneythink, a nonprofit that trains college students to teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship in local urban high schools.

Gonder claims he wasnt born into entrepreneurship, but had his aha moment in 10th grade when he realized he was capable of leading. He started Moneythink because he was motivated by the powerful combination of boredom and ambition. Gonder discovered the entrepreneurial bug in high school when he ran a California-wide climate-change campaign. Later on, he was bored when he found himself not doing anything entrepreneurial in college.

He sees massive scale potential an opportunity to change the world and disrupt the system given his extremely simple model and the best possible timing (that is, teaching the benefits of financial literacy in a down economy).

Learning entrepreneurship on the job

Some might think it odd that Gonder didnt go to college to study entrepreneurship. But it seems that as more millennials are drawn to entrepreneurship, fewer want to study it. Thats the view of Kairos Society CEO Dylan Reid and President Victoria Schramm. Kairos is a global network of top student leaders using entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

While both Reid (studying architecture at Cornell University) and Schramm (an art history major at Georgetown University) have entrepreneurial ambitions, neither is studying the subject in college. Reid believes business schools may actually hamper creativity. Entrepreneurship at universities, he asserts, has been co-opted by the business schools. He says theyre too much about business plan competitions, which dont lead to new business creation.

Schramm, whose father heads the Kauffman Foundation, agrees. As a teaching assistant for a business class, shes noticed the students are too geared toward the competitions and arent creating world-changing entrepreneurial plans.

Are these millennials more ambitious and naturally entrepreneurial than previous generations? Antonio Neves, founder of THINQACTION, which offers coaching and professional development workshops for Gen Yers, says stability seems to be less of a concern for them. Theyre living for the present moment and willing to take risks [prior generations werent]. When you can choose between now or building for retirement, now is very sexy.

Can we expect a startup surge? Though Reid and Schramm are concerned that some may be lured by big-money offers from corporate giants, they believe now is the time to start a company. Its a viable alternative to a [corporate] career plan.

Neves agrees, saying, College students see that the American dream previous generations worked so hard to accomplish hasn’t worked according to plan for many. [They] want more than a job. They crave a