Editor’s Note: January ’17

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asked about 2 months ago

Young Entrepreneurs

In January, the annual Forbes 30 under 30 list was published, where 600 Millennials were recognized for their vast achievements. The youngest, a 14-year-old from Ohio named Maanasa Mendu, has created a device to harvest energy from sun, wind and rain to deal with energy scarcity. Just one of the many teenagers on the list, she is joined by nearly 30 of her under-20 peers, ranging from actors to digital founders.  It is great to see their success, but the Young Entrepreneur path is strewn with roadblocks. Last month, the Harvard Business Review laid out challenges faced by teenage entrepreneurs that are unknown to their adult counterparts. They primarily fall under the “practical” category, ranging from the inability to enter into a commercial contract under the age of 18, to the inability to legally obtain a loan. The article notes that many teens also lack access to a steady network within the tech world, making getting off the ground more difficult.

Though at the same time, the barrier to entry into the digital sector has never been lower, meaning that teenagers with brilliant ideas – such as sign-language instant messenger Five, developed by 18-year-old Polish entrepreneur Mateusz Mach – are no longer relegated to the school science fair, but are bringing their ideas to fruition. Having originated as a “silly” app allowing friends to send custom hand signs, Mateusz has locked in funding and is working with the United Nations to develop and distribute Five across the US for speakers of ASL (American Sign Language). Also it would be equally naïve to disregard the role that privilege plays in determining whether a young entrepreneur can get their ideas off the ground. Access to technology and education, along with the family-based support to develop ideas, assumes a certain degree of wealth found more easily in developed countries. However, this gap can be at least somewhat alleviated by leaders in the industry who incorporate youth development into their missions.  Ultimately, it will be in the interest of governments and larger companies to give Young Entrepreneurs the resources they need to bring their creations into the world!