I remember the highs of the early days of the Internet Boom, when many of my clients were under 30. One of them – a visionary in his 20s – IPO’d his B2B company in 1998 – because part of his gift was the vision to anticipate the market early enough to catch the wave correctly.
After the IPO, he told me his plans for the next 20 years – to build a war chest of capital to become a significant philanthropist by the time he was 50.
This lead me to reflect that his generation of entrepreneurs, now approaching 40 (the Gen X*), came of age (out of university into the business world) into a boom market, and the smart ones moved quickly to ride that economic wave. When the tech crash came in 2000, followed by the economic crash in 2001, they didn’t know what had hit them, because they had never been independent adults during a downturn.
I remember remarking then, that we would know which of these brilliant young entrepreneurs were the Rockefellers and J.P. Morgans and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of their generations, around the time they were 50, when they were seasoned over several successes and failures.
I see many of them now, working on their 2nd or 3rd new idea, dealing with the current downturn and its lasting effects. Partners who had succeeded separately or together in earlier ventures got sufficient capital before the crash. Others, with one success, may have waited too long to settle on their next new thing, and having seed capitalized the concept with their own money, looked for Series A after September 2008 and found the fountain dry and the term sheets nasty.
Some successful entrepreneurs are showing the serial nature of their ideas, their market timing, and their clarity about exits. Others may be one-trick ponies, with only one good idea in them to execute, and are finished now, even if no one knows this. Time will tell, and we can keep watching.
The next Net generation, the Millennial’s*, now in their mid-20s, are starting their first ventures now, have finished their education, worked a bit, and moved on to entrepreneuring. They are quick and smart and determined to contribute something new to the world.
It is heartening to me to see so much talent in the Net generation now turning 40, and the one now turning 25. We are surrounded by the riches of ideas and the courage of the entrepreneur, in good times and bad. What a fine e-ticket ride!
*See William Strauss and Neil Howe’s Generations: the history of America’s future, 1584-2069 and their Millenials Rising: the next great generation.