While the coronavirus pandemic is widely considered to be another major setback for the Millennial generation, there are a fair number of Millennial entrepreneurs who have found success in a time of disruption.
For instance, Adriel Lubarsky started assembling his new company, Riveter, months before coronavirus swept the globe and forced millions of Americans out of work. The timing turned out to be fortuitous for a startup that aims to help people thrive after losing their jobs, and the San Francisco-based startup has built considerable momentum since its launch in April.
The 26-year-old Lubarsky considers tough economic times ideal for starting and testing new companies, which he said must be scrappier and more innovative under pressure. In fact, he goes so far as to predict that the biggest tech company of the coming decade will be a business started in the crucible of 2020.
"There's never been a better time to start a company," said Lubarsky, Riveter's CEO. “The ones that are going to be able to make it through the next two years will be positioned to make it" for good.
Like Lubarsky, other Millennial entrepreneurs may be especially well-equipped to find opportunity in the pandemic era's new economic landscape.
Members of the Millennial generation are "more used to the sort of chaos of this situation," with many having entered their careers during the Great Recession, noted Jeff Fromm, president of Kansas City-based consumer insights firm Futurecast and author of four books on consumer trends. "Millennials have a lot of hustle" and might be better equipped than older entrepreneurs to deal with change, Fromm said.
But with less capital than Baby Boomers and reportedly more stress, how are they doing it? Below are just a few ways Millennial entrepreneurs, despite all odds, are managing to power through the pandemic economy.
Business leaders know better than to invest in old ways as the markets change, but adapting to an entirely digital world is unprecedented - and scary. But Millennials appear to be willing to invest anyway.
Scholly, a mobile app designed to help students find college scholarships, is just one Millennial-led company that has been able to take advantage of the logistical and financial challenges posed by the crisis. This is largely due to the product's digital nature.
"We thrive because students have gone virtual," relying more on digital technology to pay for college and learn, said Christopher Gray, 28, who co-founded the company that drew a "Shark Tank" deal in 2015.
Since founding Scholly, Gray said he has helped students secure at least $70 million in college scholarships through the platform, which employs more than 20 people — all working remotely since the pandemic hit.
The Los Angeles-based startup found that demand and engagement have increased during the pandemic because students have spent more time at home using apps, and because internships have been revoked and families need more money for tuition, Gray said.
"Companies need to find a way to secure a digital presence," even mom-and-pop shops, Gray said.
Lubarsky, who also expects the pandemic to accelerate the use of digital tools for remote work, said Millennial entrepreneurs are finding success because they are quick to recognize demand in real time.
They're looking at opportunities that exist not in spite of coronavirus disruptions, but that are based on those disruptions, he said. Millennials want to address problems that the pandemic has brought to light and consider ways to improve on existing difficulties, like access to healthcare and employment.
Lubarsky's startup, Riveter, provides a uniquely intuitive approach to the unemployed, guiding people who are between jobs by addressing not only their professional needs but also their wellness and mindset. The site helps people apply for unemployment benefits and manage health insurance options, along with providing educational resources and discounts on self-care, such as meditation apps and gym memberships.
"There are certain businesses that are going to be more likely to succeed," Futurecast's Fromm said. Businesses that are designed to help people survive the pandemic in various ways, or businesses that help customers feel safe and happy in the new normal, are especially relevant today.
Websites and Millennials go hand-in-hand, as this is the generation that came of age with the internet and the first to find professional work in social media. It is understandable that the rising generation would start small businesses focused online and incur minimal risk and overhead, particularly because they typically have no commercial real estate expense.
If Millennial entrepreneurs have anything in common, said Lubarsky, it's the tendency to concentrate on a small niche when they start out, rather than trying to take on the whole world.
"Be the most dominant, impressive, important thing in a really small market" and then grow over time, he recommended.
Though this approach to business could reflect a generation's slow economic growth, it also is useful in tough economic times, when knowing how to reallocate resources and to tap into new demand could make growth during a pandemic not only possible, but also sustainable.
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