What’s driving entrepreneurs? Dreams and corporate downsizing, for starters

A recent study pointed out that one-fifth of graduates from Michigan’s major universities are going into entrepreneurship and businesses unrelated to their fields of study.

I think this is a fascinating study.

To wit, when I was growing up, the path was pretty straightforward in you were from Detroit: get your high school and college degrees and then graduate, hopefully into a corporate job.

If you were fortunate, you could potentially become a “lifer”- meaning, staying at the same company for most of your career, if you were fortunate.

My, how times have changed.

Now, young people are willing to think about blazing their own paths in the field of entrepreneurship. You’re seeing examples of young people in their twenties launching successful businesses and either growing or selling them.

For example, Facebook and Tumblr were both started by twentysomethings and now are worth something north of a billion dollars.

I believe there are a couple of factors driving this recent growth among young entrepreneurs:

  1. Dreams of making it rich like their peers,
  2. Recent corporate downsizing that took place, particularly, in Detroit and other major cities across the country in 2008, and
  3. Seeing increases lack of loyalty between employers and employees and vice versa.

Recent college graduates have been raised on technology and, as a result, speed is of the essence. In other words, “I want it now and don’t have time to wait for the next promotion on assignment …”

This perceived lack of patience, I believe, is driving the growth of young entrepreneurs.

Now, the challenge is keeping these Michigan graduates from University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Detroit, et. al. in the state.

I spent Memorial Day in Chicago visiting my son – who now lives and works there. He loves metro Detroit, but is enjoying his opportunity in the windy city.

However, he did share with me his desire to get engaged in economic development for Detroit and Southeast Michigan. He thinks there’s so much to offer here, but he’s not sure about the receptivity to ideas because of the past political and economic strife this region has endured.

As the region’s leaders convene Up North in future years, I would like to see energy on what it takes to focus on keeping young people here, helping them to start a business and providing resources to assist in growing a successful business.

This is a challenge, but if Detroit is to regain a new type of luster, I believe it will be in the areas of innovation, creativity with an emphasis of embracing young entrepreneurs and cultivating their energy and excitement here and beyond.

Let’s think about how to keep those 20 percent of college graduates with entrepreneurial spirit in this great region.

They truly are the next generation of leaders and innovators.

Let’s make it happen!