Do stories about youngsters developing apps and selling them for millions help or hinder kid's understanding of running a business?
I'm asking this question in the context of another story that's lead on the BBC news today about Nick D'Aloisio's app 'Summly' which he developed aged 15 and has just been sold to Yahoo! for 'dozens of millions'. Do these exceptional stories simply fuel the (often misguided) idea that starting a business will guarantee success and make millions, or do you think they help inspire youngsters to have a go?
4 experts have answered
I think it's fantastically inspirational and it helps re-brand tech from something geeky to something creative and powerful. Kids have their whole lives to hear about failure, to experiences "failures" on the way to success, but I think it's great for them to see that it is possible for someone like themselves to learn skills, have a great idea, and make it work! They can get plenty of realism later, I hope that it does light their tech and entrepreneurial fires! :)
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Inspiration is never a bad thing. Having a go is never a bad thing. Sure, kids may not make a success of it but by the time they get to that stage they will have learned so much about why they are failing. What we need are more business people to talk about how awesome it is to fail. How much they learn through the process and that we should embrace it rather than fear it.
If we didn't have the give-a-goers then we would not have gone to the Moon or understood how our world works to the extent it does.
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Really interesting question, Lorraine.
Yes, children need positive entrepreneurial role models so they can see what can be achieved through business (I've even had a series of children's storybooks written about them) BUT regarding this question...
The problem is in only seeing the outcome of the process of being an entrepreneur - not the process itself. Telling a child that another child has just sold his internet business for £10million to Google doesn't help a child understand anything about business - only that someone else has achieved it. The impact this will have on the child will depend on their personality - some will find this inspirational, some will see it as pressure.
Knowing exactly what I want without knowing how I can get it is incredibly frustrating. We must both inspire and empower our children to achieve - neither one is sufficient on its own.
Entrepreneurs are the eternal optimists (statistically and empirically) and can look back on their achievements with hindsight, i.e. "I knew I was going to do this and that, I made all the right decisions, I worked really hard to achieve things" - all of which will be true, but there are also people who will say exactly the same things, whose businesses have failed but you won't hear their story. Remember around 80% of businesses will fail within the first 18 months of operation.
Once we focus too much on the outcome or result of a process, rather than the process itself, we lose integrity - this goes for anything a child does in life.
We absolutely must encourage entrepreneurship in children and make it as an accessible career path as possible but ensure we do not dazzle them with the fairytale side of business. Help them understand how businesses of all sizes are created and what purpose they serve our society. Otherwise we'll end up with a generation of businesspeople who set up their venture purely with the payoff in mind!
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I think those stories are fine, but I would certainly work with children/kids on how to set their expectations. Remember, those stories are exceptions. Keep the kids focused on the enjoyment of what they are doing and the process of starting a business. If they don't enjoy that part of it, they either are doing the wrong project or just aren't suited for entrepreneurship. Not everyone is. I've started several businesses and I LOVE the process of the idea, the building, the creation. You either have to love the process or the activity you are doing to make it work, in my opinion.