Young people’s choice: the corporate ladder or the startup trampoline

Is entrepreneurship the best hope for Generation Jobless or the millennial lifestyle of choice?

The younger you are, the higher you aspire? (photo:istock) The younger you are, the higher you aspire? (photo:istock)
August 29th, 2015 7:00 am| by Philip Tees


Young people are overrepresented among entrepreneurs, but is this the consequence of current socio-economic conditions or a reflection of the cultural trend towards wanting to do your own thing?

Answer to unemployment
Last month, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) published a report with a distinct emphasis on the young. Mike Herrington, the head of GEM, presented the study – which found that young people are 1.6 times more likely to want to start a business than people over the age of 34 – in the context of the problems facing young people.

“A shortage of employment opportunities, especially amongst the youth, is a major problem in the world. This has been exacerbated by the financial crisis and global economic downturn,” he said.

“Fostering effective entrepreneurial activity among the youth is seen as a critical development strategy in order to integrate them into the labour market and harness their potential to contribute to sustainable economic development.”

Cultural shift
But as well as economic reasoning, the report recognises shifting cultural attitudes to youth entrepreneurship. It compares a time when “young people were not actively encouraged to participate in entrepreneurial endeavours” to the present day, when society spurs young entrepreneurs on and “the successful ones are celebrated as heroes”.

But, quite apart from society’s approval, young people can have their own reasons for wanting to take the startup route, and it’s not always about avoiding the unemployment office.

Generation gap
Jasenko Hadzic, the former head of #CPHFTW, an organisation representing the Copenhagen startup community, identifies an important generation gap between young people and their parents.

“The parents’ generation grew up in the industrial age when a good safe job was the goal and there was a focus on materialism. You had to own your house, your vehicle and all the other things that came alongside ,” he said.

“Today , young people are growing up in the age of the sharing economy where the focus lies on the sharing of resources. With this comes a new way of thinking, and young people are therefore more focused on realising themselves creatively. This has given rise to the new expression: ‘yuccies’ (young urban creatives).”

Entrepreneurial hipsters
The term yuccies was coined by David Infante on and defined as follows: “In a nutshell, a slice of Generation Y, borne of suburban comfort, indoctrinated with the transcendent power of education, and infected by the conviction that not only do we deserve to pursue our dreams; we should profit from them.”

A yuccie is like a hipster with an entrepreneurial streak. Whereas hipsters might like to drink craft beer, yuccies are most probably the ones brewing it.

Yuppie to yuccie
But as the name implies, the yuccie is an evolution of the yuppie (the young urban professional). The yuppie had a similar background but went after a well-paid job, while the yuccie prizes creative freedom.

Hadzic recognises the story of people jumping from the corporate ladder in order to do their own thing.

“There is a trend of professionals giving up their corporate career because they want to go into startups,” he said.

But he added that this needn’t be at the expense of commercial success.

“Some of the most interesting Danish startups in recent years, such as Endomondo, GoMore and Fitbay , are started by people with high-profile consultancy backgrounds. Their success inspires even more people to take the leap away from corporate.”


• Percentage of adults (18 to 64-year-olds) who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business: 5.5 percent

• Percentage of adults who are currently an owner-manager of an established business: 5.1 percent

• Percentage of adults (current entrepreneurs excluded) who see good opportunities to start a firm in the area where they live: 60 percent

• Percentage of adults (current entrepreneurs excluded) who believe they have the required skills and knowledge to start a business: 35 percent

• Percentage of adults (current entrepreneurs excluded) who are latent entrepreneurs and who intend to start a business within three years: 7 percent

• Percentage of adults (current entrepreneurs excluded) who indicate that the fear of failure would prevent them from setting up a business: 41 percent
(Source: GEM, 2014)

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