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HomeISFIRE Vol 9 – Issue 6 December 2018The Millennials: Business And Tech Wizards Or Self-entitled Clowns?

The Millennials: Business And Tech Wizards Or Self-entitled Clowns?


Despite my familiarity with the different generation labels (baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z), never before did I have to considerably think about the differences between them and what that might mean to me. The first time I really reflected about it was in the Fall of 2017 when I shared a dinner table at an industry event in China with Robert Lane, the founder of Commodore.

Robert has a wealth of knowledge that comes from being an early pioneer in the PC industry and spending decades in VCs. He was very generous in sharing knowledge. It was extremely interesting and I took many mental notes as I was listening to the wisdom from the many life and industry lessons he had. One of the things he mentioned was: “Beware of millennials, they will either be your competitors or employees. Either way you’ll have to deal with them.”

The Millennials (aka Gen Y) are people born between 1980 and 1994. The Post-Millennials (aka Gen Z or also iGen) are people born between 1995 and 2012. They are great entrepreneurs. They have been instrumental in creating technologies and disrupting industries. An increasing number of them have been dropping out of college to pursue their billion-dollar ideas.


I had the opportunity to interact with some bright ones when I was involved in sponsoring research, delivering guest lectures, and evaluating startups in hackathons. I was always impressed with their energy and original thinking in using the latest in technology to tackle real-life challenges. They are very tech-savvy and great multi-taskers. But as you get exposed to a wider sample, you see the early and frequent exposure to technology comes at the expense of having less stamina, patience, and attention span. It is widely known that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who pretty much created the PC industry, did not allow their kids to use PCs/tablets more than 45 minutes a day. Recently, it was announced in France that smartphones will be completely banned in schools.

Another interesting observation is that when parents are successful and affluent, they tend to provide their kids early access to smartphones, tablets, and laptops. They don’t realize that the potential damage can far outweigh the pursued benefits. This reminded me of the great classic book: “The Millionaire Next Door” by Stanley and Danko. The book, which was based on years of research and surveys of millionaires, concludes that most millionaires are self-made. The traits they had that made them millionaires are rarely passed to their kids who grow up being self-entitled brats. Legendary business leaders, like Warren Buffett, chose not to pass their fortune to their kids because they wanted their kids to work hard and earn their living.

What would be interesting to witness is what will happen in emerging economies like China and India, which have the highest increase in the percentage of millionaires and billionaires. Will they pass their work ethics to their kids and have them work hard to earn their way up, or will they get them used to the easy life and things being handed to them on a sliver plate? If they choose the latter, they are only positioning their kids for failure- even if they send them to private schools and have a job waiting for them in a family business. With the increased competition globally, it may just be a matter of time before they run down the family business to the ground.

The millennials and post-millennials have great opportunities ahead of them in terms of access to technology and capital. The creation of technology and success in business is no longer a monopoly in the hands of few conglomerates. At the same time, distractions are everywhere. Satellite TV, the Internet, and smartphones can create a generation of lazy, demotivated, and self-entitled clowns who lack work ethics and are only interested in having fun. We should expect to face a wide spectrum of personalities and behaviours, and either way we must be prepared to deal with them.


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