Are Millennials Losing Interest in Entrepreneurship?

In recent years, the face of entrepreneurship—especially high-tech entrepreneurship—has been a young one. Twenty-something business founders have been a hallmark of the tech world since back in the day when Google launched; today, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel and other fresh-faced entrepreneurs seem to symbolize American can-do.

But is the younger generation changing its mind about entrepreneurship? In a new Harvard poll of Americans aged 18 to 29, only 31 percent say starting their own business is “very important” or “one of the most important things in your life.” In comparison,(53 percent say having a stable job (even if it’s a dull one) is very important or “one of the most” important things in their lives.

So what do Millennials care about more than starting their own businesses? Well, 60 percent say that being successful in a high-paying career is either very important or one of the most important things in their lives

While 58 percent say having a job that benefits society is either very important or one of the most important things in their lives, Millennials in the survey understand that businesses can be socially responsible too. Just 22 percent would prefer to work for a nonprofit or for the government, compared to 50 percent who would prefer to work for a for-profit business.

What really tops Millennials’ list of the most important things in life: having time to spend with friends and family. A whopping 59 percent of survey respondents say this is one of the most important things in their lives, while another 26 percent say it's very important.

Perhaps knowing how intensely startup founders have to work during their businesses’ first years of life is deterring young Americans from wanting to start their own companies. Consider: Just 16 percent of survey respondents say they would like to work in a fledgling company, while 54 percent would prefer to work for an established firm. Or maybe they just aren't that impressed by the young entrepreneurs often promoted as role models. Only 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively, cited Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk (Tesla founder) as people they admire.

Or perhaps it's the hefty amounts of student loan debt they're dealing with that make well-paying jobs and stability seem so appealing. Having come of age during the Great Recession may make entrepreneurship seem a bit too risky for a generation that's already struggling to gain a foothold in adult life.

One interesting exception to the survey rules: The percentage of African American and Hispanic Millennials who say starting their own business is important to them was double that of whites. Half of African-Americans and 43 percent of Hispanics say starting their own business is very important or one of the most important things in their lives, compared with 24 percent of whites.

Will the next generation of young entrepreneurs exhibit a more diverse face than the generation currently getting all the publicity? The answer remains to be seen.

If you’re a Millennial seeking to start your own business, SCORE can help. Visit to get free online mentoring 24/7. 

Rieva Lesonsky
<p> Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. <br /> <a href="" target="_blank" title="GrowBizMedia"></a> | <a href="" target="_blank" title="Rieva on Twitter">@rieva</a> | <a href="" title="blogs by Rieva">More from Rieva</a></p>


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