Five Reasons Millennials Are Not ‘Entrepreneurial’

Nary a day goes by when a commentator or columnist doesn’t express dismay at the struggling American economy and how lazy/selfish/unappreciative/fill in the blank “kids these days” are. I don’t know if it’s new or a pattern that occurs every decade.

The Millennial Mindset and America’s Productivity Crisis” by Steve Tobak 1/18/2016.  Below are his reasons Millennials aren’t more productive (truncated for length):

1. Quit trying to deal with a certain generation as if they’re either special little snowflakes or entitled, narcissistic brats and start holding them accountable as unique individuals.

2. That said, those unique individuals need to quit doing such an effective job of living up to those Generation Me stereotypes, put on their big boy pants and get to work.

3. And their coddling parents should quit acting as if they had absolutely nothing to do with the demon spawn they raised and stop blaming gadgets, schools and society in general.

The problem is that Millennials are not getting jobs or starting companies like their predecessors did. What are they doing? We’ll get to that in a minute, but suffice to say that America’s largest generation is not pulling its weight. And if we don’t start facing that reality and dealing with it, we’re all screwed.

Since the dawn of Web 2.0…Millennials have been branded as the entrepreneurial generation…The hype and the sensational headlines have been overwhelming:

Millennials Are the True Entrepreneur Generation.” “Gen Y Grads More Likely to Launch Startups.”… “Why Millennials Could Be the Most Entrepreneurial Generation Ever.” and so on.

But that turned out to be far more myth than reality…Millennials have actually been the least entrepreneurial generation…perhaps because they see entrepreneurship as a mindset that has nothing to do with actually starting a company. Unfortunately, wishful thinking does not lead to jobs or GDP.

While it’s true that many Millennials are snubbing corporate America, they’re generally not starting companies but joining the growing ranks of the gig economy: doing a little of this and a little of that as self-employed solopreneurs. A recent report by MBO Partners says that Millennials make up 30% of all full-time independent workers.

Instead of climbing the corporate ladder and building their careers or starting companies and creating new jobs, they’re opting for the perceived freedom, flexibility and control of self-employment…The problem is that driving an Uber cab, renting out a room on Airbnb or generating online content are not exactly high paying gigs or boons to the economy. That’s why self-employed Americans make up 17% of the working population but generate just 7% of the nation’s GDP, according to the MBO report..

If we don’t start treating Millennials – the largest demographic in our nation’s history – as individuals and hold them accountable for becoming productive members of society, how in the world are we going to increase productivity, return to robust growth, pay down our national debt, and fit the bill for all those entitlements?

2015-Millennial-Money-Report-Earn

2015-Millennial-Money-Report-Debt

This is not the first, nor the last, hand-wringing that will come with why kids my age aren’t running out to build the next Uber or Facebook. Despite the sensational media reports about teens and twenty-somethings getting rich of some new business idea, the author is right that few of us actually will try any business startup, let alone some major innovative company.

Points 1,2, and 3 are about how coddled we are. I can assure you, dear reader, I got no coddling, except Mama’s delicious spaghetti and meat sauce. And laundry done. And a roof over my head. Okay, fine.

As for debt, that is very unfair. We are not only pressured to go to college right away (in hindsight I should have joined the military or the National Guard, would have doubled as serving the country and also gotten help on student loans) but to take out massive amounts of debt, then run into an economy that’s been struggling for years. My entire adult life has been essentially a recession or stagnant economy. Not the kind ideal to finding a high-paying job or confidence in starting out on a business.

Wherever else you may see lists or reasons of why we aren’t making enough money to buy our first mansion at the age of 26, here are my five quick reasons:

1. Cost. I started to produce a card game for kids, not fully aware of just how expensive it gets to produce two decks of cards for a game. Especially when I’m trying to create a valuable product and not take shortcuts on the product itself. Fees, taxes, regulation costs-things I could not know about until I had to pay them, at least without the time investment to shop around. In hindsight, I wonder if, knowing what I know now, I would have continued with this venture. But it’s too late now.

2. Debt. I addressed this above. My guess is, many of the young techie startup folks have little or no debt, due to a) scholarship money, b) rich parents, c) trust fund, or d) any combo of the above. The rest of us, not towering geniuses going to Ivies, Duke, or Stanford, carry a lot of debt.

3. unprepared for hard life. Going into business for oneself isn’t easy, even if Warren Buffet makes it look like anyone with $100 and a pair of shoes can make millions overnight. It requires long hours, personal sacrifices, and lots of focus, which is hard in this ADHD age we live in, and which some of us suffer from, maybe even quite literally. I completely get the need for hard work and sacrifice but that really has to be conditioned, and it’s not something that can be taught in a classroom.

4. Lack of access to mentors. I noticed that most of the top Millennial Entrpreneurs have solid access to a) capital and b) advisors. I don’t mean they did so great and then got a and b. I mean they had them FROM THE GET GO. To be fair, it is possibly to meet or exceed one’s goals without “privilege”. But MAN is it hard. Far easier to start with one’s first million, or a “small loan”.

5. Government. No one knows all the regulations out there, but there are lots of federal, state and local codes and taxes to manage. And we didn’t even address the IRS tax code today.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment below and share this article. I’m sure there’s a lot of hand-wringing, but to me, the combo of high-debt, low cash to begin, and inexperience both as a professional and in preparedness contribute to most of us just checking out and playing the latest Assassin’s Creed, which is awesome for the record.

 

Why Understanding Web Traffic is Important to your Website Profile

I want to start off 2015 with a miniseries of articles on data analytics. The reason is because as the Caesar Rodney Institute’s Communications Director I have spent a lot of time going through data analytics for our websites and social media pages (social media analytics will come in a future blogpost). Seeing the data is one thing; knowing how it can benefit your company or personal website is another. All you aspiring authors and personal profile builders out there, you might want to take a few notes. Knowing ways to build your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can mean the difference between being discovered and going “viral” and being stuck in the bog of roughly 644 million websites worldwide.

For this post I’ll focus on Google Analytics (GA) and the book “Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, 3rd edition” by Brian Clifton (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012). Brian is the former head of web analytics for Google Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and I combine his lessons with my own experiences. Most of the newer editors are just slightly updated versions of previous editions, but if you have the chance to pick up a copy I’d recommend it. (author note: I do not benefit in any way from endorsing this book)

The first step in learning to use data analytics is to know why it’s so important for your website profile. Unfortunately many people just see a bunch of numbers and some pie charts and then don’t compare data from past months or try to dig into the data to spot useful trends. GA has over 100 different reports available for downloading and this is a daunting number for the new user.

Not all data points in GA are as useful as others; for example I discovered that, for CRI, measuring the average page visit was not very valuable. Part of this reason is because there is no perfect way to measure exactly how long someone really stays on your page- ever opened a new website in your browser, then gone off to do something else? At some point the website has to cut off your site visit time. Some sites cut it off after 30 minutes of inactivity, some 10.

Some useful data points which can be tracked:

  • Your daily visitor total
  • average conversion rate (if you sell things on your site)
  • top-visited pages
  • where people are searching from (location)
  • where people are searching from (web browser)
  • Your “page stickiness” (how many pages are viewed before a visitor leaves)
  • keywords being used in search engines to find you.

All of this data, and more, help you identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPI). For example, a review of CRI data shows about 1/3 of people who find us via search engine are doing so by looking for us by keywords like “prevailing wage Delaware” or “Delaware government accountability” rather than by our name, which is an indication that there is interest in our policy issues but a lot of those people didn’t know we existed prior to entering those keywords.

Having this information available allows you or your team to figure out what is working and what isn’t working with your pages and make adjustments. So for us, for example, we discovered that we had an increase in total visits in November but a lot of those views were from November 1-20. By being able to break down the month into thirds to view our total page views, we could see that November 21-30 accounted for only 26% of our visits, which we attributed to the Thanksgiving holiday. Knowing the specific cause of the late November drop into early December prevented us from being overly concerned about the drop and then making an irrational decision regarding our online presence.

In the next post I’ll talk about some of the inaccuracies in GA and some ways you can prevent these inaccuracies from adversely affecting your data points. Please feel free to comment below on ways you use data analytics for yourself or your company.

Is Uber worth $40 billion?

There has been a rush of venture capital money going to tech companies-Airbnb’s valuation went up to $13 billion, which is more than the the entire chains of Hyatt, Wyndham, and Holiday inn. Mind you, this is a company which doesn’t have any physical property besides a headquarters. All the costs of renting and insuring a home* falls on the homeowner and most insurance companies don’t (yet) offer homeowners insurance for Airbnb. But it’s still considered more valuable.

Enter Uber, the same company which got into a spat with Buzzfeed over negative reporter coverage of the company (PR lessons for another post). They are being valued at $40 BILLION, yes with a “B”. That’s about $7 billion more than Mark Zuckerberg is worth as of today. All for a company founded in 2009.

The question is, is Uber worth $40 billion? And what does it say that the fastest growing companies are all “tech” companies? Tech is a popular industry but the way companies are valued puzzles me.

First, Uber does not own or pay for the property being used. It’s an app which people use to find Uber drivers who function as cheaper, more efficienct taxis. I love the app (Lyft and Sidecar are similar) and I personally support the idea of free-market. I think it’s great the taxi industry, which is essentially a government-sanctioned monopoly, has to be challenged to provide cheaper and more efficient services, and it speaks volumes they feel threatened by people’s ability to choose another means of transportation. However, Uber doesn’t do anything besides connect drivers to customers. The cars, the insurance, the service itself, are all provided by the driver. Just as Airbnb is now insuring homeowners up to $1 million for damanges suffered from guest use, Uber and Lyft do no such thing.

Second, Uber (like Lyft and Sidecar) operate in a gray area. The companies are considered tech companies but the government considers them “Transportation” companies- which by law are subject to state regulation, something Uber drivers avoid doing. Say what you want about your craziest taxi driver, but they industry is regulated with real ways to report taxi drivers for road infractions. Uber doesn’t work that way; you take the risk that literally anyone with a driver’s license can give you a ride. Totally fair, in my opinion, but since the company does not insure customer or driver for liability or damages

it’s hard to justify how any venture capitalist can look at an app and throw it $40 billion. Don’t tell me it’s “technology” or “disruptive”. Ride-sharing apps are both these things but the valuations don’t appear to be ground in reality. It’s like Silicon Valley has made so much money over the last 20 years their investors can afford to just give billions to any tech app it wants. If you don’t think tech companies have been overvalued in the past, look up the Dot Com Crash, and check out the stock market: Tech companies rise and fall much faster than traditional companies like General Electric, Du Pont, or Boeing.

Final word: I support Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar’s right to offer a service to challenge the government-sanctioned monopolies and status quo. Anything to offer fair competition and lower prices in the marketplace is fine with me. But handing billions to people for doing nothing but coding some lines when they hold few assets and have little to no liability seems irresponsible. Kind of like bailing out businesses who were “too big to fail.”

Next week I’ll review book sales for 2014 and offer my thoughts on the state of book publishing. Then I’m off to Florida! See if you can guess where :). First one to guess wins a prize.

Logo copyrighted by Uber, Inc.