Starting companies is hard work. Imagine how tough it might be for a new generation of entrepreneurs coming up through the ranks right now? A supply chain crisis, political strife, rising inflation, a global pandemic — whew! These go-getters need inspirational figures to look up to in order to spin up a new business.
So who is this new generation of entrepreneurs relying on for motivation? According to WIRED, "Steve Jobs is dead, Mark Zuckerberg is tarnished. For the next generation of founders, the contributions of Bill Gates feel like history."
Arielle Pardes reports, "WIRED asked more than a dozen young startup founders between the ages of 15 and 30 who inspires them." It turns out the results were overwhelming. "More than half brought up Musk."
The tech magazine interviewed respondents to get their thoughts. When asked about Marc Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, Marc Baghadjian, a 22-year-old founder of a dating startup, wasn't swayed. He explained, "We don’t look up to these fools. Just because you’re a billionaire doesn’t mean you’re positively effecting change.”
He admits companies like Facebook and Amazon have innovated, but Musk’s work with electric cars and solar energy feels far more important to him. “Elon Musk is literally picking up the tab for the mistakes that other generations have made,” says Baghadjian.
“There’s not a lot of glamour when you’re starting out,” says Pranjali Awasthi, who's 15 and working on a stealth startup while she finishes high school. Awasthi also cited Musk as her hero. In fact, some WIRED respondents pointed to Musk's surprising habit of sleeping on the floor at the Tesla factory, which many said showed grit.
Kenan Saleh started a company in college, "out of his dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania. He raised $500,000 as he crammed for finals and then sold the company to Lyft in 2019, the year he graduated."
Saleh started watching videos of Elon Musk in college and noted, “He’s shown that you can do the best thing for the world and reap the benefits at the same time.”
Lori Rosenkopf, vice dean of entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business says she’s noticed a shift in the way students talk about entrepreneurship. It's no longer just as a career alternative to banking or consulting, but a way to start a business with “a much greater social perspective.”
“This generation is looking at all of the issues and trying to say, ‘How can we start to be part of the solution to the problems that the older generation created for us?’” concludes Rosenkopf.