Teen Titans – Gen Y’s Budding Entrepreneurs
On Friday April 23, 100 or so young entrepreneurs gathered at Microsoft’s Mountain View, California campus to learn from one another and from some wrinkled Gen X and Boomer guests, myself included. The occasion was SDForum’s “Tech Titans of Tomorrow,” the organization’s fourth annual gathering for teenagers interested in technology and business development. I was invited to speak about corporate responsibility and sustainability and what those concepts mean to businesspeople.
My brief remarks focused upon the need to view enterprises in the context of a mission that extends beyond profitability to solving “big” problems, e.g. Applied Materials’ mission to use its know-how to create a clean and brighter future. I also suggested that a little corporate history of single-minded and shortsighted companies would be valuable to the teens.
This was one of those conferences where I got a lot more out of listening than I could contribute – the young people who presented (both teenagers and college students) were refreshing and inspiring. We heard from one young man who started his first consulting business at the age of 12 (!) and has since started several others, all in the software world. James Bickford, a recent graduate of Santa Clara University and former member of the Applied-sponsored Solar Decathlon team, has already co-founded an energy efficiency business and is now marketing manager of a solar technology startup in the Bay Area.
We also heard from some high schoolers who felt compelled to aggressively address climate change: a group of Menlo-Atherton High School students created a climate change class (a la Inconvenient Truth) and are hoping to take it nationwide; a young woman from The Harker School in San Jose co-founded SmartPowerEd which aims to get energy tracking devices into schools in order to help conserve energy.
Since most of my conversations with teens (i.e. my daughter) involve cleaning up their rooms or closing the refrigerator door, I was thoroughly impressed and hopeful that the entrepreneurial spirit in Silicon Valley is going to be alive and well for some time to come.
For a recap on the event and bios of the speakers, click here.