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# F I X Y O U N G A M E R I C A


Scott Gerber, Founder,

Young Entrepreneur Council

In 2010, a group of successful young founders banded together to form a grassroots movement and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs.

Th e Great Recession was wreaking havoc on young adults, who were twice as likely to be unemployed.1 Th e men and women who had started companies like LivingSocial, Mint.com, and HootSuite were suddenly in a unique position: Th ey could off er counsel to their Gen Y peers that no one else could—or would.

What began as a loosely affi liated group of do-gooders is now known as the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation-only nonprofi t comprised of nearly 400 of America’s top entrepreneurs under thirty-fi ve. We have since mentored tens of thousands of young people around the world, from the United States to Egypt. In doing so, we’ve seen solutions to the epidemics of youth un- and underemployment fi rsthand. Now, along with dozens of supporters and partners, we are launching a national campaign to

#FixYoungAmerica—for good.

Our urgency is real. Th e United States government is being strangled by partisan politics. Youth employment is at a sixty-year low—only 54.3 percent of young adults aged eighteen to twenty-1 Jenny Marlar, “Worldwide, Young Adults Twice as Likely to Be Unemployed,” Gallup, April 27, 2011, http://www.gallup.com/poll/147281/worldwide-young-adults-twice-likely-unemployed.aspx.


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four have a job at all, the lowest percentage since the government started keeping track in 1948.2 And student loan debt just topped $1 trillion, with default rates rising quickly.

Yet young Americans are far more optimistic and entrepreneurial than the pundits would have you believe. According to a 2011 youth entrepreneurship survey conducted by Buzz Marketing Group and the YEC, 23 percent of America’s young people started a business as a result of being unemployed. Fifteen percent started their business in college.3 And let’s not forget our veterans, who are twice as likely as other Americans to own businesses.4

So why are so few politicians, pundits and decision makers building on that entrepreneurial energy as a solution to joblessness and economic malaise? From the Arab Spring to the Tea Party, from Occupy Wall Street to the SOPA and PIPA protests, we’ve seen what like-minded individuals can achieve. And it’s high time we funneled that same energy into something positive—namely, rebuilding an entrepreneurial America.

Th is book is not the end-all, be-all compendium of solutions—

far from it. Th e solutions in this book mark the beginning of an important conversation, one we wanted to play a role in starting. By opening the door and leading with solutions (instead of negativity), we hope to create the momentum needed for long-term change. In that spirit, we will continue to solicit hundreds of new solutions as part of an ongoing national campaign.

2 Paul Taylor, et al., Young, Underemployed and Optimistic: Coming of Age, Slowly, in a Tough Economy, Pew Research Center, (Pew Social & Demographic Trends, February 9, 2012), 6, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/fi les/2012/02/SDT-Youth-and-Economy.pdf.

3 Data is from YEC and Buzz Marketing Group’s annual youth entrepreneurship survey of over 1600

American males and females ages 16-39.

4 Scott Gerber, “Why We Should Help Veterans Start Their Own Businesses,” Time.com, February 7, 2012, http://business.time.com/2012/02/07/why-we-should-help-veterans-start-their-own-businesses/.


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In the pages that follow, leaders who are actually in the trenches making youth entrepreneurship possible share their key fi ndings, best practices, and battle-tested solutions. Our intention is to share these with the decision makers capable of implementing and scaling them across America.

Neither YEC’s members nor the authors in this book are willing to allow this generation to fl ounder—but we need your help to execute our solutions. Here’s how.

Integrate Academia and the Real World

In the 2011 YEC/Buzz Marketing Group survey, 88 percent of young people said that entrepreneurship education is vitally important given the new economy—and yet 74 percent of college students had no access to entrepreneurship resources on campus. When resources were available, most students felt they were woefully inadequate.5

Th is is not acceptable—in the twenty-fi rst century, entrepreneurial thinking isn’t just for entrepreneurs. Adaptability, creativ-ity and fi nancial literacy are core skills for American employees and intrapreneurs, too. Th ey’re also critical assets to our communities.

Junior Achievement and the Aspen Institute found that youth-entrepreneurship programs positively impacted dropout rates and community engagement, not to mention the development of success-oriented attitudes of risk-taking and opportunity recognition.6

But most employers today think high school and college graduates are seriously defi cient in entrepreneurial skills like leadership and 5 YEC and Buzz Marketing Group survey.

6 Th e Aspen Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group, Youth Entrepreneurship Education in America: A Policymaker’s Action Guide, (Th e Aspen Institute, 2008), 5-6, http://www.americaspromise.org/~/media/Files/



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innovation,7 and we face a signifi cant shortfall of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates.8

If we actually want to change the way Americans work, then our K-12 schools, community colleges and four-year colleges must pair book learning with real-world practicum. Babson, Cogswell Poly-technical College, Junior Achievement, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), among others, are leading the way.

Eliminate Government Barriers

Even our deadlocked Congress has found bipartisan compromises in entrepreneurship-related legislation, like the recent passage of the JOBS Act. But gridlock is preventing truly decisive action.

From adopting self-employment assistance programs in all states to providing federal student loan forgiveness for young entrepreneurs, we need government at all levels to nurture its most valuable resource better.

Th e Obama administration’s Startup America agenda is a step, but we must demand a bolder pro-growth agenda. To start with, let’s pass the Youth Entrepreneurship Act, which would defer or forgive student loan debt for young entrepreneurs using the precedent set by the Income-Based Repayment program, signed into law by President George W. Bush and extended by President Obama.9 And let’s pass 7 Th e Conference Board, et al., Are Th ey Really Ready to Work? Employer’s Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce, (2006), 9-10, http://


8 Richard Dobbs, James Manyika and Charles Roxburgh, “What business can do to restart growth,” McKinsey & Company, September 2011, http://www.mckinsey.com/Features/Growth/


9 “Income-Based Repayment Plan,” Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, last modifi ed December 7, 2011, http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/IBRPlan.jsp.


# F I X Y O U N G A M E R I C A

legislation like the VET Act of 2011, so our returning vets can use GI benefi ts to start businesses.10

An overwhelming 88 percent of young people feel that the government does not support them.11 It is our duty to hold our represen-tatives accountable. We can begin by asking them to stop handicap-ping the youth-owned startups of tomorrow.

Invest in and Mentor Young Entrepreneurs

Initiatives like the Startup America Partnership and Dell’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program are models for the private sector. Business leaders can team up with accelerators, venture funds, campus groups, regional leadership and nonprofi ts to mentor, fi nance, and train the next generation of high-growth company leaders.

Or they can help pave the way for the next public software engineering schools, as Union Square Ventures VC Fred Wilson did in New York. Franchisors can extend special fi nancing to youth and veterans—after all, direct economic output in the franchise sector is projected to grow 5 percent in 2012, and employment, 2.1 percent.12

And we need to openly encourage our young people to start their careers in startups, which generate all net job growth—so those companies keep growing, and young people learn to thrive in the new economy.13

Finally, we need to start creating common-sense avenues for fi nancial support. Microloan fi nanciers like Kiva are easing global unemployment throughout the developing world—why can’t we do more of the same thing here? Frankly, improving access to capital 10 Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act of 2011, H.R. 3167, 112th Congress, (2011).

11 YEC and Buzz Marketing Group survey.

12 2012 Franchise Business Economic Outlook, prepared by IHS Global Insight for the International Franchise Association, January 2012, 1, http://emarket.franchise.org/EconOutlookFactSheetfi nal.pdf.

13 Th e Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Destruction, (Kauff man Foundation, July 2010), 2, http://www.kauff man.org/uploadedfi les/fi rm_formation_importance_of_startups.pdf.


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doesn’t necessarily start with banks—having robust mentorship and other non-fi nancial support doubles the likelihood that a young entrepreneur will be approved for a commercial loan.14

Teach Tech in and out of the Classroom

Th e Web has revolutionized the way we do business today, creating a far more level playing fi eld for young entrepreneurs—provided they have the skill set to take advantage of it. Young entrepreneurs who are well-versed in software engineering, design and code have an instant leg up on their peers. One study found that small-to-medium businesses with strong Web presences grew twice as fast as those with only a minimal presence (or none at all), and created twice the number of jobs.15

We need to prepare all young people for this reality, and arm them with the tools they need to grow businesses (or become valued employees and intrapreneurs). In the classroom, this means we need to teach hands-on computer software engineering, not just computing basics—the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting an employment increase for software engineers of 32 percent by 2018.16 Outside the classroom, companies like Codecademy fi ll gaps in K-12 and college education by creating peer-to-peer platforms where aspiring coders learn by doing.

14 Global Youth Entrepreneur Survey 2011, (Th e Prince’s Youth Business International, 2011), 8, http://


15 Matthieu Pélissié du Rausas, et al., “Internet matters: Th e Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity,” McKinsey Global Institute, May 2011, http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/MGI/


16 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11

Edition, “Computer Software Engineers and Computer Programmers,” last modifi ed December 17, 2009, http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos303.htm.


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Foster Entrepreneurship at the Regional Level

Not all solutions fi t all communities. From a grassroots perspective, one of the most valuable takeaways in this book is that our communities must do a better job of connecting their own thinkers and doers.

Cities facing economic decline need to create resource-rich networks that help young entrepreneurs cut through red tape and bureaucracy at the local level, so entrepreneurs don’t depart en masse. Th e Idea Village in New Orleans has helped sustain over one thousand jobs and $83 million in revenue by retaining and supporting the city’s entrepreneurs.

Underserved regions must fi nd new ways to develop ecosystems in which idea exchange, growth, and fi nancial support are readily available. From Silicon Prairie to New Orleans, entrepreneurs are bridging gaps between local government, investors, and backyard entrepreneurs. Th ese hyper-local networks provide the momentum Americans need to get new businesses off the ground immediately.

How to #FixYoungAmerica

Let’s stop telling our young people they are the future, and give them the resources they need to succeed today. It is our moral, fi nancial and patriotic duty to support new job creation, which is why the YEC

and dozens of partners have joined together to #FixYoungAmerica. If we, as a nation, succeed—and succeed we must—we will help restore the American dream to millions of young people. Not every entrepreneur will create a high-growth company, but increasing America’s entrepreneur population by as little as 1 to 2 percent would create tens of thousands of needed jobs. Th is is not about making life easier for Millennials. It’s about ensuring that, when they become the thirty-, forty- and fi fty-something leaders of tomorrow, they will have the capacity and ability to lead America forward.


# F I X Y O U N G A M E R I C A

In buying this book, you are actively participating in this new national conversation. Your contribution enables us to take our message on the road and infl uence the decision makers where they are. And as our campaign progresses, we will announce new supporters, media partnerships, book topics, and solutions—including yours, if you share it with us.

What I am asking you for today is this: ten minutes of your time. Yes, I know how big an ask that is—but I also know we’re on the brink of real change. So on behalf of the YEC, please help us fi x America by sharing our campaign on social media and emailing your friends, colleagues, families, mentors, and elected offi cials to ask them to join our movement. More importantly, share your proposed solutions with us—so we can execute them together. Visit www.FixYoungAmerica.com now to fi nd out how.

Scott Gerber is the founder of the Young

Entrepreneur Council (http://theyec.org) and

co-founder of Gen Y Capital Partners. He is

also a serial entrepreneur, internationally syn-

dicated columnist, host of the Inc.com web

show Ask Gerber and author of the book

Never Get a “Real” Job. Scott has been featured

in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, TIME, CNN, Reuters, Mashable, CBS Evening News, ABC World News Tonight, MSNBC, US News & World Report, Fox News, Inc. and Entrepreneur. Follow him on Twitter @askgerber.


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