The Voice Of A Generation

Young Entrepreneurship will set Sail if not Nurtured

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It’s common knowledge in Ireland and across the world that student life is one of little luxury. According to a recent study by EUROSTUDENT the average European students’ monthly spending is €832, while their average monthly income is a mere €754. The report also noted that 51% of these students have jobs that, in many cases, force them to miss class time. It’s a vicious cycle.

While students work to pay their way through third level education, they miss classes, fall behind and spend their free time catching up. Worst of all these efforts may be futile as they are ultimately jeopardizing the very degree they are working for.

My concerns are:

How can any high expectations be made of a generation who live on the edge of poverty in an attempt to better their lives with a third level education?

How can rewarding years of secondary education and a good leaving cert with too much to do and not enough time to do it ever incubate innovation and risk-taking? 

After all, what’s at risk here is our natural inclinations as young adults to innovate and take risks. Young men and woman in their early 20’s have an abundance of creativity and energy that should be put to better use for endeavours such as building, solving real-world problems, and alteration of outdated industry methods. It is instead wasted on menial part-time jobs stacking shelves and playing catch up with sleep-deprived study sessions.

When it’s finally time to put on the cap and gown after 3-4 years of scrounging and budgeting it’s only natural to crave comfort and stability. This is why the vast majority of students will choose a safe and secure desk job over starting their own company or exploring solutions to problems they really care about. The once vibrant and risk inclined teenager has morphed into a worn out graduate focused purely on money and stability.

Proof of this can be found in the resulting closure of an Irish start-up fund worth €10 million called Nohovation. The fund was set up by Irish serial entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Trustev, Pat Phelan. The fund was shut down due to a lack of investable and scalable early stage Irish start-ups.

The fund’s website gave the following statement:

“On Friday 2 June, after a year of reading some of the most awful pitch decks and half-baked business plans in the Western Hemisphere, we wrapped Nohovation & Nohovation Partners I LP due to the lack of investable companies that fit into our remit.”

With our generation being the next to compete in the world of start-ups are we to expect the same level of interest, or lack thereof? How can we be expected to raise the bar and take on the financial risk of starting a company and exploring our ideas after 3-4 years of living with the imminent threat of financial struggle hanging over us?

Most middle-aged adults will shy away from the idea of setting up their own business because of commitments and responsibilities they’ve accumulated over the years. This is why entrepreneurship should be encouraged in young adults and students coming out of college as the majority have little to no major responsibilities leaving 3rd level education. In other words, they literally have nothing to lose.

In my opinion as a young entrepreneur and student the major driver in the decline of innovative start-ups in Ireland isn’t due to the fear of failure, it’s a classic case of PTSD from the years spent on minimum wage trying to get by while maintaining a decent college average.   

Something must be done to lift the fear and alleviate the financial pressure of third level education so that our entrepreneurial spirits can grow in conjunction with our academic goals, not in spite of them.

Who knows, maybe the next Steve Jobs passed through the Irish education system unnoticed because when he should have been innovating and exploring ideas he was spending all his free time behind the counter of the local Centra making hot chicken rolls to pay for his student accommodation.

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