When you think about it, it’s amazing what’s happened in the last twenty years.
- Grade-school entrepreneurs have made news, and over 150,000 kids each year now participate in an annual program to learn entrepreneurship by selling lemonade.
- Almost no high schools taught entrepreneurship back then. Today, organizations like NFTE teach entrepreneurship to dozens of inner-city high schools, and many other high schools have adopted the subject matter into their business programs.
- About two-thirds of colleges and universities have formal entrepreneurship programs, thanks to charitable organizations like the Coleman Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation. Today, universities have academic programs, centers, incubators, funds, and competitions to support young entrepreneurs.
- In the last five years, accelerators have exploded onto the global scene, particularly for digital startups, making mentoring ubiquitous and helping reduce the early stage risk of entrepreneurship.
- Organizations like EO and YPO have gone global, creating effective peer-to-peer learning and networking for owners and CEOs of later-stage entrepreneurial firms.
The progress has been staggering. But there’s a gap.
Between numbers 4 and 5, something is missing. And, in my opinion, it’s the most critical stage because it’s the early growth stage.
It’s when entrepreneurial volatility and vulnerability are arguably at their peak. A startup’s business model has taken root. It has more and more paying customers. Investors have money at stake. It’s building a reputation. The team expands beyond the founders. A company culture begins taking form. Competitors take notice. There are people that rely on it for employment and income. One of the founders has to change roles into that of a CEO…has to become a leader. The rest of the founders have to learn how to run, and grow, a real business.
This gap wouldn’t be so visible and so worrisome if the accelerators hadn’t emerged recently. But they have and it’s time we fill the gap.
And when we do, a pathway will have been created. A pathway that will exist for people who want to build things, from seven and eight years old, all the way until they’re running companies of hundreds of millions.
When that happens, it will be cool. Very cool.