Mar 30, 2012
In the April 2012 issue of Esquire magazine writer Stephen Marche has an important article about what he calls “The War on Youth” - how increasingly in the US today there is a major divide between the old and young in terms of their expectations, financial position, social safety net and life experiences. What worked for the Boomers appears not to be working for the current generation.
This article is important to read and understand whatever your political position or opinion. It reinforces the importance of the Boomers as a customer demographic while also highlighting some of the issues here in the US.
As an entrepreneur in my mid-30’s I fall in-between the two groups this article focuses on (the Boomers and the children of the Boomers - my father was born during World War II not after it. But I definitely see the issues this article raises and see increasing numbers of young people returning to live at home with their parents.
When I was in college internships were common but not expected, apparently in the past few years that has changed completely, for me the news that over 90% of college students take an internship was one of the most shocking figures in the article (along with the estimate that interns represent a nearly $2B/year labor savings for US businesses).
I was also, however, struck by the idea that one of the best reactions to this changing economic landscape (by young and old alike) is to start new businesses that focus on selling to the generations with money (i.e. the Boomers among others) while at least in part offering great employment opportunities to the generations that are seeking well paying career options (i.e. the current younger generations). Not exploitative jobs that either do not pay anything (i.e. internships) or which pay wages that are a fraction of what was paid for similar labor in the past (i.e. the “blue collar” jobs that the article focuses on that pay significantly less to new workers than to older workers) but jobs that pay well because the businesses they are part of make money (and share that money with their workforce).
Perhaps I’m idealistic but I think there are many such opportunities and all around me here in San Francisco (and all over the US and world) I see such businesses being formed every day. These are businesses that are in many cases built using many of the best practices of Lean Startups - building viable, scalable businesses built on addressing real customer needs.