Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Lehigh University Create! Innovate! awards dinner. Over the past few years, my own Lehigh University set sail for the entrepreneurial horizon. Donations from the Thalheimers and from Dexter Baker set this in motion, the latter of whom funded the creation of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation (although I might have called it Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship…so you could have called it ICE…but you didn’t check with me first!)
I found the evening to be inspirational. There was an energy in the room as many, many Lehigh students received recognition and awards for their entrepreneurial efforts. Often, the exciting world of new venture creation is limited by the need to generate revenue and manage costs. I’m not saying that’s wrong. It’s just that even the early days of a new venture can quickly become more like “management” and less like “entrepreneurship”. Most of my founders have a significant personal financial stake in the successful commercialization of their product. This is how it should be, but some days can weigh very heavy.
As I watched these young adults accept their awards, they were full of energy and passion as young people often are. But there was a little more in play there. In them, I sensed some bigger sense of mission and purpose and direction. And power. I imagined parallels between them and the young adults throwing off oppressive dictatorships in the Middle East. Or like this past Sunday when all those young golfers stormed the leader board at the Masters, while old Tiger Woods just couldn’t re-take control. I think we are seeing a tipping point in culture world wide, driven by darned smart young people. Maybe like we haven’t seen since the late 1960’s.
I needed to get most of the way through this MassHighTech article on a new approach to venture capital to pick up on the pitch pipe note playing in my head since the awards last week. The world is about to be overrun by a generation of creators. They are incredibly world-savvy (at least a fifth of the award winning team members weren’t on hand because they were somewhere abroad!). And they are not merely tech-savvy. “Tech-savvy kids” is the old term for kids who could make the DVD player stop blinking 12:00. I’m talking about something much deeper and more fundamental. This generation of kids who are 20 years old, born in 1991, might just be the first wave of humans who are physically, emotionally and philosophically changed by technology and the internet. The way they receive and disseminate information is fundamentally different. The “always connected” phenomenon has never been “off” for them. News, sports, music are omnipresent. Everything is caught on video now and instantly available. All that could change how a brain works and functions and I believe this has happened to an entire generation of humans at the same time.
I don’t want to get too far away here from the great dinner and celebration run by @lislerlin, @toddawatkins and @entreprenuru. It was a great celebration of Lehigh and the growth of their program. But for me, I think I see the world differently now. It’s that phrase — “Generation of Creators”. I can’t seem to shake it. And I think I saw the future on a mountaintop last week.