I seem to find myself travelling all over talking about innovation and meeting start-ups. It’s the start-up economy, and there’s probably been no better time to be young, hopeful and visionary. Thinking back to my younger days, leaving university, the idea of creating my own company was unheard of. Everyone was encouraged to get a career, join a large corporation and get a job for life. A job for life. Would anyone even think of a job for life these days? It sounds more like a punishment than an ideal, and yet just a few decades ago that was what everyone wanted. In fact, you got knocked back if you changed companies in those days. The idea that people couldn’t hold down a job for life was viewed as bad. If you moved around the industry, ducking and diving between jobs, you were viewed as having a problem. Not any more.
By the turn of the new century, companies recognised that long-term stable employment was a thing of the past. Banks that typically allowed employees to rise through the ranks over decades and give them generous termination benefits and pensions, changed into more mercenary organisations, ruthlessly cost cutting and taking out the fat. In recent times, hundreds of thousands of loyal bank workers have been thrown on the unemployment scrap heap, as banks had to trim costs and restructure to deal with the regulatory tsunami of change.
And yet now, we have this start-up economy. The start-up economy is where banks, angel investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have switched to the view that small, nimble and quick can be intriguing. Hackathons create an idea; the idea gets $10,000; the $10,000 allows the idea to turn into a skunk work; the skunk work gets a seed investor of $100,000; the $100,000 allows the idea to turn into a proof of concept; the proof of concept gets $1 million; the $1 million attracts the attention of a mentor, who guides the idealistic founder to form a team with a decent CFO/CEO to manage the logistics; the team build a business that gains traction in the markets, and heads toward a Series A funding round of $10 million; and so on and so forth.
This system of nurturing, building and supporting young entrepreneurs began in Silicon Valley and is being replicated worldwide. Wherever I go, I’m bumping into start-up challenges, hackathons and talent days, looking for the young and bright things who can imagine the next generation world. It’s beautiful, wonderful and idealistic.
Is it sustainable?
I have no idea. For every 1,000 start-ups, there may be 999 failures. Does this matter? No. As the 1 in 1,000 idea that creates the next Google, PayPal or Facebook is the golden egg we seek to lay. We follow the path of creativity through technology, and believe that a better world is to come.
A job for life?