Who do young entrepreneurs look up to? Elon Musk
In middle school, Kenan Saleh saw the film The social network, the dramatic account of the early days of Facebook. He decided, then and there, to one day start his own company. "It was the first film I saw that showed you could be young and still be the most successful person in the room," he said. of ways. "
In true Zuckerbergian fashion, Saleh started a company out of his bedroom at the University of Pennsylvania. He raised $ 500,000 while bidding for finals and then sold the company to Lyft in 2019, the year he graduated. Along the way, Saleh realized he needed a new role model. He no longer wanted to be like Zuckerberg, who by then had been embroiled in a series of scandals. Steve Jobs was popular, but Jobs was dead, and reading his biography was as fascinating as "reading a history book". Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Bill Gates were still alive, but their contribution to Silicon Valley already felt like ancient history. Saleh wanted a hero who was making history now.
Young people love to idolize their predecessors. Jobs has been Silicon Valley's favorite idol for decades, but for the next generation of startup founders, his legacy feels as old as Web 1.0. Boy geniuses like Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel, who became billions when they were 25, have fallen out of favor. So are tech oligarchs like Jeff Bezos. "We're not looking up to these idiots," said Marc Baghadjian, the 22-year-old founder of a dating company. “Just because you are a billionaire does not mean you are making a positive impact on change. ”
Instead, both Baghadjian and Saleh now worship Elon Musk, whom they see as a billionaire on a moral mission. “It has shown that you can do what’s best for the world and reap the benefits at the same time,” said Saleh, who began watching videos of Musk while in college.
WIRED has asked over a dozen young founders aged between 15 and 30 who will inspire them. More than half Musk picked up. Others mentioned techno-optimists like Sam Altman and Patrick Collison, who seem to believe that technology can solve the world's biggest problems, or philanthropic entrepreneurs with startups that don't. so well known. None of them had read books about the history of Apple, Google, or Amazon; they said they were increasingly motivated by forward - looking companies trying to solve the world 's biggest problems.
Olav Sorenson, who has taught entrepreneurship at UCLA and Yale, says his students tend to honor people who have “been successful without selling out . Seth Goldman - founder of Honest Tea, who now chairs the board of Beyond Meat - is cited by some as one motivating factor as he has focused his energy on investing in and supporting businesses with a mission. ethical, "said Sorenson.
"This generation is looking at all the issues and trying to say, 'How can we begin to be part of the solution to the problems that the older generation has created for us?'" Said Lori Rosenkopf, associate dean of entrepreneurship at the University from the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania. Rosenkopf says that in the last few years, she has noticed a shift in the way students talk about entrepreneurship - not just as an alternative to banking or co - employment. counseling, but as a way of initiating campaigns with a "far greater social outlook."
For many young entrepreneurs, Musk is the prime example of this mindset. "Elon Musk is literally building a record for the mistakes made by other generations," said Baghadjian, who read Ashlee Vance's biography of Musk in high school and has been considered a hero ever since. say that while companies such as Amazon and Apple have come up with great inventions, Musk's work with electric vehicles and solar energy was far more important.
Other young people were inspired by the trope of the founding founder who is struggling on the path to success. One reported Musk sleeping on the floor in a Tesla headquarters, which they said was showing grit. A few also mentioned the story of Airbnb founder Brian Chesky, who issued his credit cards and applied for ramen notes in the early days of the novice.