Time to harness youth’s start-up energy
Don’t let age get in the way of starting a business as the benefits of doing so are huge
Eric Lassard (11) from Clondalkin speaking on the Peoples Stage about his website for Children - www.ericlassard.com - at the Dublin Web Summit in 2014. Photograph: Sam Boal /Photocall Ireland
Eric Lassard is a social and serial entrepreneur. He has two companies and three ongoing projects. Four years ago he wrote a book, 12 Elements of the Winner Matrix, and self-published it.
Eric is 12 years old.
The entrepreneur has been in business since the age of seven, and says that he is often underestimated because of his age.
“I always get asked ‘Why don’t you just go out and play?’ But I’m not about that, I want to change education and I want other kids in the future to know that they can do anything.”
The Hungarian-born adolescent has lived in Ireland since the age of four and is home-educated. He is currently working on an educational project called KidsEduPro, a community platform which he hopes will reform the way we think about education.
“Once a child is supported, anything is possible for them,” he says, adding that his “momager” helps him to run his business.
He believes that one of the best initiatives for encouraging entrepreneurs is a project called Face (Failure Aversion Change in Europe) Entrepreneurship , a campaign funded by the European Commission which aims to help ICT entrepreneurs overcome their fears.
The initiative was launched in October 2015 and will run until at least August this year.
Eric attended the recent networking event entitled Face Dublin. What about my future? in the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin – the third in a series of seven, preceded by similar conferences in Madrid and London, and to be followed by events in Prague, Munich, Copenhagen and Helsinki.
Successful entrepreneurs Jesse van Doren, Ken Banks, Cristina Luminea and Eoin Costello spoke about the doubts they faced when undertaking the challenge of starting a business alone.
Van Doren (19) believes technology has removed many of the limitations previously encountered by those looking to connect and get involved in business. “In a digital age, it doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re from,” he says. “Country borders don’t exist anymore.”
He started working in marketing at the age of 11, and says he feels it’s necessary for young people to prove themselves to older generations by creating new concepts and projects.
“When you start at a young age, people often don’t take you seriously,” he says.
“If you want to learn, it’s important not to let other people stop you.”
In May 2014, he hosted the first World Hackathon Day to promote international collaboration and the capabilities of young people, with the support of multinationals including Google, Microsoftand KPMG, along with NGO Amnesty International.
He brought 500 young people between the ages of 10 and 25 from South Africa, Morocco, Germany, Israel, India and the Netherlands together offline for 24 hours, creating viral web applications, infographics, videos, and mobile apps.
The Dutch teenager left university after his first year of study and now works as a growth hacker for start-ups and multinationals, in addition to having created tech communities in 20 countries.
“It’s not that I don’t like school, but just that I had other opportunities and I thought I could learn faster with them. I think a lot of young entrepreneurs don’t know where to begin, so this is an amazing event for people to network and see how they can help each other,” he says of the Face Entrepreneurship programme.
Interactive games Cristina Luminea made the transition from corporate businesswoman to founder and chief executive of Thoughtbox, a start-up which uses interactive games to help young audiences engage with maths and science.
She says the fear of failure is the main factor that discourages people from setting up their own businesses.
“So many things go through your mind before you start, like ‘what if this isn’t going to work?’, ‘what will my career be like?’, ‘what will people say?’ and so on.”
Luminea says that one of the most challenging aspects of her start-up experience was not having a co-founder. Having a business partner would have been easier than going it alone when starting out.
She advises people hoping to get involved in entrepreneurship to “just do it”. There is a lot of support and funding available from organisations such as the National Digital Research Centre and Enterprise Ireland, she says.
“There are a lot of incubators and people who are willing to help start-ups as long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you have a solid team”.
Co-founder of Startup Ireland Eoin Costello believes that, as a society, we need to change the way we look at entrepreneurship.
“I think we should start talking about the start-up sector as an industry rather than a community, and we should start talking about entrepreneurship as a profession rather than something happy-go-lucky.”
Costello walked away from a career in data-hosting to return to college and then engage in a new career advising start-ups. He believes the recovery of the economy depends on the success of entrepreneurial ventures in Ireland, adding that two-thirds of all new jobs are created by start-ups.
“It’s a bit like rugby or hockey; not everyone’s cut out for it, but the general wisdom at the moment in terms of entrepreneurship is that everyone should have a go,” he says. “I think we need to professionalise entrepreneurship so that the failure rate falls and we can start investing in it as an industry.”
Social innovator Ken Banks has a contrasting view, believing that we should “democratise” the idea of entrepreneurship.
“Anyone can actually do it. The main barrier to successful entrepreneurship is a lack of belief; it’s just about having the confidence to find your passion and stick with it. There’s no reason you shouldn’t try it if you get the opportunity,” he says.
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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