Bullish on America's Next Generation...
For all the talk of our 47 year old, post-baby boom President heralding change, I actually think its a much younger generation - those in college today and just out of it - that will re-invigorate America and the world.
Three things I have seen in the past week gave me great confidence that America has not completely lost its mojo and that this up and coming generation is poised to unleash the next great phase of global growth:
1.) TerraCycle - The amazing business that I visited and wrote about last week which was founded by a 20 year old Princeton dropout and turns garbage into products. It's not only revolutionized the way we look at garbage, but could become the GE of eco-capitalism in just a matter of years - proving that you can make huge profits, and benefit the planet.
2.) My Old Fraternity - When I left Hobart in 1990 my fraternity - Phi Sigma Kappa - was in deep decline. A few years later it was banned from campus and lost its charter. Then about 3 years ago, a team of industrious freshman reached out to the dispersed botherhood of house alumni in search of support and a history on which to re-charter the house. Today it's back in operation and appearantly the most popular house on campus. The key? They've run it like a business, building a viral campus-wide brand backed by posters, slogans and creative t-shirts, supported by unique fundraising events, smart networking parties ("slip-n-slide" parties), and a diverse array of brothers that defies the traditional Hobart Fraternity clique that was based on which sport you played.
3.) Today's Tom Friedman Column in the NY Times - in which he relays the story of two recent Yale grads he meets in New Delhi who tour the Indian countryside in a solar powered car promoting the Indian Youth Climate Network, or IYCN, which connects young climate leaders in India and spreads awareness of all the clean, green energy innovation taking place there today.
These kids are different than I was at that age for sure. They are less motivated by money than by doing what's right. But they are also deadly serious and incredibly focused about their mission. And they seem to be competely free of the social and business mores and constraints of previous generations. Maybe it's all the natural outcome of the first generation to have grown up with the internet and a truly open and fast moving market of ideas. But whatever it is, it's got me bullish on America again and thinking that whatever happens in this economic winter of discontent, just beyond it lies a spring of renewal driven by a new generation of innovators.