Transparency In Crypto Industry ‘Critical’: Ripple CEO

Speaking with “Mornings with Maria” from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Garlinghouse discussed regulation for the industry, noting that he traveled to Davos for the conference to engage with other CEOs and finance ministers from around the world “to talk about how these technologies can actually solve real world problems, and reduce costs and improve efficiency.”Garlinghouse also addressed volatility in the crypto market on Tuesday.

“There’s no question that regulation around crypto is still trying to find solid footing and finding the right posture for the United States,” Garlinghouse said before arguing that “the United States has really been behind other G-20 of markets,” including the U.K., Switzerland and Singapore.

He said that those markets “have led in establishing a framework that works for investors as well as entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of the new technologies and building the next generations of Google and Facebook.”

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
COIN COINBASE GLOBAL INC. 59.48 -6.62 -10.02%
BITQ EXCHANGE TRADED CONCEPTS TRUST BITWISE CRYPTO INNOVATORS E 7.45 -0.57 -7.11%

Along with the stock market, bitcoin has experienced a lot of volatility recently. Two weeks ago, bitcoin plunged to the $25,000 level, its lowest since December 2020, then bounced back over $30,000, according to CoinDesk. As of Tuesday morning, the crypto was trading around the $29,000 level, down from its all-time high of over $68,000 reached in November 2021.

The crypto is down more than 36% year-to-date.“There’s no question there’s been a lot of turbulence in the crypto market,” Garlinghouse said, noting that “if you zoom out, though, over the last two years, you have to remember that bitcoin was at about $8,000 two years ago. Today it’s around $30,000.”

Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of financial technology company Ripple Labs, discussed regulation and volatility in the cryptocurrency markets from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “This is a new market,” he continued. “There’s certainly been a lot of excitement about what’s going on in the market [and] sometimes that excitement gets ahead of the reality.”

“We’ve been focused on how do we use technologies to solve real problems for customers and those are the kind of solutions that will scale regardless of the turbulence and volatility of the market,” he went on to argue.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have had some rough weeks in anticipation of and following the half-point interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve. It was the second of several anticipated increases this year as the central bank seeks to combat soaring inflation, which is at a high not seen in four decades.

The expectation now is that the Fed will take aggressive action to try and curb inflation, which remains near 40-year highs, according to the data for April released earlier this month, which has reduced investor appetite to hold assets perceived as higher risk.

Adding to more fears of volatility in the crypto market was the decoupling of the TerraUSD, a stablecoin whose value was tied to $1, the Wall Street Journal reported. The world’s largest stablecoin by market cap, tether, also briefly edged down from its $1 peg.  Garlinghouse pointed out on Tuesday that “stablecoins have been in the news because that was one of the catalysts that really drove the market a couple of weeks ago.”

Stablecoins are digital currencies with values that are pegged to traditional assets, like the dollar, another currency or gold. Its correspondence with the dollar is what, in theory, makes it stable. However, volatility in the crypto market last week challenged that presumption.

Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of financial technology company Ripple Labs, discusses the turbulance in the crypto market from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. “I think now more than ever the transparency that companies like Ripple have championed across the crypto industry is critical,” Garlinghouse told host Maria Bartiromo.

“That transparency for tether I think is to really make sure the people participating feel, buy and have access to whatever financial information they need to feel comfortable that it is in fact dollar-backed.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a House committee hearing earlier this month that the sharp drop in crypto markets highlighted the need for additional federal regulation to respond to the wave of speculative investment in the currency whose secrecy is a major part of its attraction. In addition, a top official at the SEC indicated that tighter rules around crypto stablecoins could be drawing closer, Reuters reported.

Source: Transparency in crypto industry ‘critical’: Ripple CEO | Fox Business

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Can Miami Survive Tech Recession and Stock Market Crash, Become Next Silicon Valley

The music is always too loud in Miami, but tech workers seem to love it anyway.

As the tech industry fanned out across the US over the past two years, a geographically liberated workforce found itself in new and unexpected places — like frivolous, beachy Miami. Where other cities have spent billions of dollars on incentives, planning, and research parks over decades to lure startups, Miami’s inchoate community was tweeted into existence in a matter of months.

Right now, the US tech sector is on tenterhooks as markets tumble, startup valuations crater, and tech layoffs are announced daily. The industry’s uncertain future raises a question: Can Miami parlay its recent success into a status as a globally competitive tech hub to someday rival Silicon Valley? Or will it turn into a cautionary tale about placing all your bets on a bubble?

The Miami miracle of migration

Ed Glaeser, an urban economist who wrote the book “Triumph of the City,” once told an interviewer that “the most successful economic development policy is to attract and retain smart people and then get out of their way.” Miami may not be the most obvious place to attract the type of people who would build a new Silicon Valley.

After all, as the venture capitalist Paul Graham wrote in 2006: “Most nerds like quieter pleasures. They like cafes instead of clubs; used bookshops instead of fashionable clothing shops; hiking instead of dancing.” Even some in Miami doubted the city could become a tech hub.

In 2013, the Knight Foundation, The Atlantic, and the urbanist Richard Florida held a conference to discuss the future of Miami’s economy. Named “Start-up City: Miami,” the gathering marked one of the city’s first attempts to brand itself as a transcontinental tech hub, but it was not well received by all the area’s leaders. Miami Beach’s mayor at the time, Phil Levine, unforgettably called the idea of a tech-driven Miami Beach “the dumbest idea in the world.” He believed that Miami Beach should play to its strengths: tourism and travel.

When Zappos’ CEO at the time, Tony Hsieh, the internet pioneer who helped revitalize downtown Las Vegas, took the stage during the conference, he asked the audience of Miamians, “How many opportunities do you have in a lifetime to help shape the future of a major city?” Nearly 10 years later, the city’s new contingent of tech disciples and policymakers are welcoming the challenge to create something in a place with no tech traditions.

“You could see the need for Miami to diversify,” Francis Suarez, Miami’s mayor since 2017, told me during an interview in March.

Suarez is one of the biggest reasons for Miami’s economic transformation. Using social-media buzz and livestreamed conversations with recognizable tech leaders over sugary Cuban espressos called cafecitos, Suarez called for investors, programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs to relocate to Miami’s shores. He has argued that the city has the ability to remake itself.

“We’re a relatively young city — 125 years old,” he said. “The modern Miami started in my lifetime.”

There’s no playbook for building a sustainable, long-term tech ecosystem using online publicity and peer pressure, but the early returns from Suarez’s constant promotion are encouraging. In the year following the start of the pandemic, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region had the greatest inbound migration of software and IT workers of any US metro area, at 15.4% year over year, while the Bay Area fared the worst.

Miami was aided in its efforts by the snowglobe-shaking disruption of the pandemic. “Part of what made this moment possible were macro factors,” Suarez told me. Remote work empowered people to find places with a cheaper cost of living, better quality of life, lower taxes, and less stringent health protocols. Sunshine and socializing in a Sun Belt city became a temptation for many in New York City and San Francisco. And the Magic City, similar to other warm-weather cities, became a “have-it-all hub.”

“You’re starting to see this decentralization of talent in tech. I think Miami is well positioned to come out of that era as a dominant player,” Suarez told me. “Many of the people I talk to are saying, ‘We’ll build here, but we may hire from all over the country.'”

Peter Yared, a founder of the software startup InCountry, arrived in Miami from San Francisco in September 2020 after briefly considering Los Angeles. “People think that you move for taxes, but you don’t upend your life for them,” he told me. For Yared, as for many others, it was a combination of factors including governance and crime that turned him away from San Francisco and the “monoculture that had distilled” the city.

More than a flash in the pan

To be sure, Silicon Valley wasn’t successful just because it was a suburban area with nice weather. What fueled its rise as the center of the tech world were its competitive research institutions, friendly business and labor laws, access to venture capital, and web of legal, financial, and accounting firms ready to aid eager entrepreneurs. Plenty of cities have tried to follow in its footsteps — from Atlanta’s “Silicon Peach” to Salt Lake City’s “Silicon Slopes” — but have mostly ended up as promising but pale imitations.

Miami’s most distinguishing feature as a startup hub is its status as an international city — a crossroads for a variety of industries, events, and people. Its network of domestic and international flights and its proximity to Latin America make it a gateway for people and globalized markets. In 2019, more than 54% of residents of Miami-Dade County were immigrants, and immigrants held 61% of STEM jobs.

The city can capitalize on its title of the “capital of Latin America” and its existing industries — namely hospitality, aviation, and healthcare — to provide an economic base for the tech sector that could spur recombinant urban economic growth. With its density of hospitals and treatment centers, it can build up its biotechnology reputation, which the University of Miami’s life-sciences-and-technology park and incubator has ventured to do. And the robustness of the region’s tech economy may depend on expanding beyond crypto projects and into traditional industries and newer sectors such as climate technology.

It also has the advantage of being a vibrant city that can draw entrepreneurs, business celebrities, and startup CEOs from across the country to events. Back-to-back tech conferences and large-scale events like Miami Tech Week, the Bitcoin Conference, and eMerge Americas have brought in powerful people. And the city has become an alternative to New York and Las Vegas for some of the most voguish nonbusiness events including Art Basel and the Formula 1 ​​Grand Prix in early May.

Now that the idea of Miami as a tech hub has caught on, startup founders, developers, and venture capitalists are flocking to be part of it. “There’s a vanguard of interesting people all showing up at the same time,” Yared told me. “It’s what makes cities boom.”

Miami is also rapidly drawing in venture capital. In 2021, the value of venture-capital deals for Miami-based startups nearly quadrupled, reaching $4.6 billion overall, up from $1.2 billion in 2020 and right behind Austin. While the city ranks 12th in the country in terms of venture-capital funding, representing only 1.4% of the total amount raised in the US, the year-over-year growth is substantial.

SoftBank grew its Miami fund to $250 million, while Founders Fund, Atomic, and Silicon Valley Bank opened offices. As more funds relocate or expand their offices to Miami, other venture firms will be drawn into this vortex. And this convergence of capital makes Suarez confident that Miami “will be the main aggregation center of capital.” The growing white-shoe network of legal and accounting firms within the banking and financial-services sector is also poised to support the city’s growing tech sector.

Despite the recent precipitous drop in tech stocks, momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing. So far this year, startups in the Miami area have raised over $1.15 billion, according to PitchBook. Nationally, a record-breaking year in venture-capital fundraising has given way to sobering expectations of an industry pullback as public markets get hit hard and startup valuations slump.

Eventually, the macroeconomic environment may drag down Miami’s nascent tech economy, but with newly funded venture-capital firms needing to deploy capital, the fallout could be minor.

To make sure this rapid boom doesn’t result in a just-as-sudden bust, Miami will need to couple the tech cheerleading with more sustainable development. The city has to invest in nuts-and-bolts infrastructure, the kind that helps keep housing costs, homelessness, crime, and poverty low. And it must face down its most existential crisis: climate change.

The higher-education brain drain

The most glaring roadblock on Miami’s path to challenging Silicon Valley is brain drain and the lack of top-ranking applied sciences and research universities. Regional experts such as Alejandro Portes, a sociologist who has studied Miami’s economic history, have highlighted that the region’s top young people often depart for Boston, New York, or California for college. Keeping these students near home — during and after school — requires South Florida to have a top-tier engineering university.

“Higher ed is ripe for disruption. We are looking at higher-ed partnerships or at creating something completely new,” Suarez told me. He’s heading up a free, tech-oriented charter school to encourage young people toward tech.

Local universities are also aware of this need. Florida International University is constructing a $48 million facility to expand engineering programs, and it says that in the past four years it’s grown its computer-science enrollment by 60%, to about 8,000 students. Even with all this, Miami’s tech education pales in comparison to the roughly 18,000 science and engineering graduates in and near Silicon Valley in 2016 and the thousands more in software boot camps.

Research facilities are also critical for developing an innovative ecosystem. The benefits of research and development are hyperlocalized, meaning research benefits the community through local commercialization of new technologies before spreading nationally and internationally. And research has suggested that university spin-off companies are more likely to attract venture capital.

In a report by the National Science Foundation ranking colleges and universities by the number of utility patents developed through their research from 1969 to 2012, the highest South Florida institution ranked 29th, behind institutions in areas with much smaller populations. To boost that number, Miami could follow the example of New York City: In 2011, the city partnered with Cornell University and the Institute of Technology to build an engineering campus on an underutilized piece of land.

As these tech-talent pipelines form, however, companies based in Miami can draw on their proximity to Central and South American markets and labor, setting up remote teams in places like Mexico City and recruiting more diverse talent from abroad.

Can Miami fight the housing crisis and rising shorelines? 

Only a few years ago, Miami’s cost of living was just above the national average. But thanks to a precipitous jump in newcomers, Miami has become the most expensive housing market in the US, a May report from RealtyHop said. According to Redfin, the average rent in Miami increased by 34% over 2021, hitting an eye-watering $3,020.

The consumer price index for Greater Miami increased by 9.8% over the year to February; that figure was nearly 2 percentage points higher than in most parts of the country. How can Miami avoid the pitfalls of growth that accompanied the Bay Area’s rise, a phrase that local newspapers have pejoratively called the “San Francisco-ization” of Miami?

Suarez is transparent about the challenges Miami faces and the looming crisis of unaffordability. “We are not perfect and we have all of the challenges of major cities but we are at historic lows in homicides, unemployment and taxes. Much work to be done on affordability and education,” he tweeted in February. Despite the hot market, more units are being built, offering a positive, if imperfect, outlook as many residents are uprooted.

“We have in our pipeline 47,000 units in construction. That’s a 25% increase in dwelling units that we’re going to see over a two- to four-year period,” Suarez told me. For now, the housing crisis has not translated into homelessness; rates are at a 25-year low.

What’s more, with the exception of the pandemic spike, the unemployment rate, currently at 3%, has remained low in recent years, and wage growth has surged by more than in other metro areas recently — things that, taken together, may help alleviate the cost of living.

Just as pressing as housing issues, the crescive tides accompanying the climate crisis may affect the city’s growth over the next several decades. In 2017, voters approved a $400 million “Miami Forever” bond to help protect against rising sea levels and flooding.

The city in recent years has embraced advisors from the Netherlands to help it adapt. Over the next two decades, the sea level is expected to rise by 11 inches around Miami, threatening billions of dollars in real estate if the city isn’t able to adapt effectively. Undoubtedly, the region will need to invest substantially more toward mitigation efforts.

It takes time to build

For Miami and its newly minted tech hub to continue growing at the current pace, the city will need to address these imminent risks and the challenges of responding to the climate crisis and the second-order effects of growth. Greater Miami, by various metrics, consistently hovers between 10th and 12th among US metros for economic output, number of knowledge workers, and annual venture capital, which together provide a picture of Miami’s tech economy: Miami is midsized, but it’s growing fiercely.

The city has embraced a talent-focused and place-based policymaking approach to building a tech hub. And it has many of the ingredients for a hub that’s perfect for a remote-work era: a high quality of life with many social opportunities to counteract the siloing effects of working from home. But the one factor in Silicon Valley’s success that Miami still needs is time.

“We’re a 10-year overnight-success story,” Suarez told me. That is far short of the decades it took for Silicon Valley to mature. It’s clear that Miami’s star is rising, but to become an entrenched part of the tech industry, the city will need to weather economic storms like what we’re seeing today. Reading the coffee grounds from cafecitos, there is a growing chance that Miami could very well become a superstar city with an international tech hub.

Emil Skandul is a writer and founder of digital innovation firm Capitol Foundry. He is working on a book about tech hubs.

Source: Can Miami Survive Tech Recession and Stock Market Crash, Become Next Silicon Valley

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India’s Young Investors Prefer Crypto To Gold and Boring Stocks

Indian businesswoman Swati Daga first bought bitcoin in 2017, when the cryptocurrency was trading well under $3,000. Her decision to invest in digital currencies was met with wariness by her family, she recalls.

“The elders in my family told me not to throw my money away,” said Daga, who runs a food business near New Delhi.But the 33-year-old hasn’t regretted her decision — bitcoin’s value has increased 15 times since then — and she continues to invest as much as 10% of her savings in cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and ethereum.

“I find stock markets boring,” she told CNN Business, adding that she enjoys the “thrill” and “recklessness” that comes with investing in volatile currencies. She is not the only one. India has seen a huge boom in cryptocurrency trading since the start of the pandemic, even though authorities in Asia’s third largest economy have for years expressed concerns about digital currencies, and even banning them.

Entrepreneurs in the industry told CNN Business that the country has the potential to become a crypto superpower, since it is one of the hottest internet markets in the world, with 750 million users, and hundreds of millions more yet to come online for the first time. India ranked second behind only Vietnam last year in a list of countries seeing the fastest growth in cryptocurrency adoption, according to a report published in October by blockchain data platform Chainalysis.

While the government does not keep estimates of how many people trade cryptocurrencies, industry experts have suggested that the country may now have more than 20 million crypto investors. The growth is driven by younger investors — mostly under the age of 35 — and many of them are coming from smaller cities and towns, founders of two of India’s biggest crypto exchanges told CNN Business.

According to Sumit Gupta, CEO and co-founder of exchange CoinDCX, many Indian millennials have started “their investing journey with crypto.” While 20 years ago, their parents chose to invest in gold, these youngsters “are more interested in having bitcoin as part of their portfolio,” Gupta told CNN Business, referring to the fact that traditionally Indians chose to park their money in gold or savings accounts.

Buying gold is both an investment and a cultural habit in India, which is one of the largest markets for the precious metal, according to the World Gold Council. It also considered auspicious by Hindus and Jains, and plays a fundamental role in many religious ceremonies. Mumbai-based CoinDCX became India’s first crypto unicorn last year, achieving a valuation of $1.1 billion after raising money from investors such as Coinbase Ventures and B Capital Group.

The company says 70% of its 10 million users are between the age of 18 and 34. The CoinDCX app is seen on a phone screen in West Bengal, India, in August 2021. Data shared by rival firm WazirX tell a similar story. WazirX also has over 10 million users, and called 2021 a phenomenal year for crypto trading in India. The company was acquired by Binance,  one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, in 2019.

Over 65% of its users are under the age of 35, according to a recent company report, and it has seen a “700% increase in the number of participants from smaller cities like Guwahati, Karnal, Bareilly, thereby signaling the growing interest from rural and semi-urban areas.”

Pritish Kumawat, a crypto trader from a small town in the western state of Rajasthan, said that he now finds conversations about cryptocurrencies in almost every tea shop in his area.

Often, the most engaged participants are college students, he said, adding that bitcoin’s massive spike last year has fueled the frenzy in India. In November, bitcoin was trading at a record high of $68000 but it has since fallen to around $43,000. In addition to bitcoin, meme currencies such as dogecoin and shiba inu are also popular among Indians, the WazirX report added.

Apart from investors from smaller towns, both companies saw an increase of more than 1000% in the number of women users on their platforms, albeit on a small base. Gupta said that participation of crypto by Indian women has seen “a massive upside” in the past 18 months and is “fairly high, fairly healthy, relative to equity markets.” The company’s data shows that 15% of their overall users are women — which is the global trend as well.

On-again, off-again relationship

The excitement over crypto is rising in India despite the country’s on-again, off-again relationship with digital currencies. The central bank has long expressed concerns that cryptocurrencies can be used for money laundering and to finance terrorism. A cryptically worded proposal posted on the Indian parliament website last year even suggested the government was exploring plans to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India.”

This year, however, started on a more cheerful note for enthusiasts. Earlier this month, the Indian government announced it would impose a 30% tax on income from virtual digital assets, which many industry experts took as a sign that crypto trading won’t be banned after all. The government also said it would launch a digital rupee in the coming months.

“Taxation of virtual digital assets or crypto is a step in the right direction. It gives much-needed clarity and confidence to the industry,” Gupta said at the time of the announcement. Siddharth Menon, the co-founder of WazirX, told CNN Business that following the announcement, his platform saw daily sign-ups jump by over 50%. He also noticed rising interest among Indian developers and other professionals in joining the crypto industry.WazirX's website is shown in New York, USA, in April 2021.

“I’m getting LinkedIn messages” from senior executives in India, who are now more optimistic about the business, he said. In the past, Indian exchanges have struggled to hire and retain experienced people due to the lack of clear regulations. But the Indian government soon put a damper on the mood, by clarifying that the cryptocurrencies are not yet legal in the country.

“I am not doing anything to legalize it or ban it or not legalize it,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharama said in parliament a few days after announcing the tax rate. “Banning or not banning will come subsequently … But I will tax because it is a sovereign right.” “I think the government is not entirely sure what it wants to do from a policy perspective,” said Anirudh Rastogi, founder of tech law firm Ikigaw Law, which works with crypto exchanges in India.

“It knows where it wants to land broadly. It wants to find the right balance where it is not disconnected from the global progress in blockchain and other tech, but it wants to also address concerns regarding cryptocurrency.” Rastogi added that the “extraordinarily high” tax on crypto is a short-term fix, which will also acts as a deterrent to many investors.

“This rate is typically used to tax activities that are not considered economically productive, such as lottery,” he said. “So this could be an indication that the government wants to make revenue, but it does not see crypto trading as economically productive.” For equities, India applies a 15% short-term capital gains tax if shares are sold in less than a year, and 10% if sold after a year.

Gupta hopes that the government makes up its mind soon. India, with its vast pool of developers and enthusiastic young population, could be a “superpower in the next five to 10 years,” in cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, he said. “What is missing right now is a clear regulatory framework,” he added.

Source: India’s young investors prefer crypto to gold and ‘boring’ stocks – CNN

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Everyone Wants To Be An Entrepreneur But Not Everybody Has a Plan

As news continues to break that Snapchat defied the odds and raised over $1.8 billion in funding, many people have been reminded of the money to be made in technology and other entrepreneurial start-ups.

Yet, some become preoccupied with the perks of being a lone ranger. From working independently at home to freedom of thought, the benefits of going it alone can be enticing.

However, one of the major constants in the world is that businesses fail, especially new ones. Dun and Bradstreet identified over 13,000 failed business in Australia during the first quarter of 2016.

Entrepreneurs, like all business leaders, must have a plan to ensure they stay focused on the idea and goals they set.

Knowing your customer

The first question all good entrepreneurs must ask themselves is what’s the problem to be solved. Founder of Alltopstartups.com and Entrepreneur contributor Thomas Oppong pointed out that consumers currently face a ‘paradox of choice’ and thus, an entrepreneur must focus on building a must-have [product], not a nice to have the product’.

The next step is to create a good or service that offers something above and beyond what is currently available. One only has to look at the way Google reinvented search, or how Netflix solved on-demand media streaming to see that resolving customer pain points is a successful strategy.

This will become your value proposition and drive why you do what you do. Can you offer a product with a zero-carbon footprint? Can you add more features, while making it smaller? These are the questions you will have to answer.

However, before you can attend any of this you need to understand your customer. Analysing the size of the targeted market or the number of potential customers is a good place to start, but entrepreneurs should not stop here.

Take the success of Skullcandy, which makes earphones and other accessories, for instance. In a Forbes article, investor Alan Hall said that founder Rick Alden knew his customers down to a tee.

‘He knows what they wear from their toes to the tops of their heads. He knows they are or want to be, cool and accepted by their peers. He knows what they watch and where they shop. He knows what apps they have on their cellphones and iPads,’ Hall argued.

Knowing yourself

Among the major lessons never taught in business school is that your enterprise will only be as strong as you are. So it’s important to evaluate who you really are. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses can offer a starting point to understand why you want to be an entrepreneur.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a millennial who is looking to build your own destiny or a baby boomer who is financially secure but continues to seek success. Your background, age and other characteristics will impact how you can approach the venture.

You need to make an effort to understand who you are, as working to your strengths and compensating for your weaknesses can be a beneficial strategy. It’s also essential to play to your passions.

‘The happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them,’ Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston said during the 2013 MIT commencement address. ‘They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball: Their eyes go a little crazy, the leash snaps and they go bounding off, ploughing through whatever gets in the way.’

No matter who you are or where you come from, knowing yourself and your customer base is essential to starting a business. It’s not just about having a good idea or product, you have to be passionate about it and so do your customers.

By: TEC Alumni Chair, CEO mentor and coach Richard Appleby

Source: Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur but not everybody has a plan – TEC

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Who Do Young Entrepreneurs Look Up To? Elon Musk

Steve Jobs is dead, Mark Zuckerberg is tarnished. For the next generation of startup founders, the contributions of Bill Gates feel like ancient history.

In middle school, Kenan Saleh saw the movie The Social Network, the dramatized account of the early days of Facebook. He decided, right then and there, that he would one day start a company of his own. “It was the first movie I’d seen that showed that you could be young and still be the most successful person in the room,” he says. “I definitely emulated Mark Zuckerberg in some ways.”

In true Zuckerbergian fashion, Saleh did start a company out of his dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania. He raised $500,000 as he crammed for finals and then sold the company to Lyft in 2019, the year he graduated. Along the way, Saleh realized he needed a new role model. He no longer wanted to be like Zuckerberg, who by then had become ensnared in a series of scandals.

Plenty of people liked Steve Jobs, but Jobs was dead, and reading his biography was about as appealing as “reading a history book.” Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Bill Gates were still alive, but their contributions to Silicon Valley already felt like ancient history. Saleh wanted a hero who was making history now.

Young people love to idolize their predecessors. Jobs was Silicon Valley’s idol of choice for decades, but to the next generation of startup founders, his legacy feels about as old as Web 1.0. Boy geniuses like Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel, who became billionaires by the time they were 25, have fallen out of favor.

So have tech oligarchs like Jeff Bezos. “We don’t look up to these fools,” says Marc Baghadjian, the 22-year-old founder of a dating startup. “Just because you’re a billionaire doesn’t mean you’re positively effecting change.”

Instead, both Baghadjian and Saleh now worship Elon Musk, whom they see as a billionaire on an ethical mission. “He’s shown that you can do the best thing for the world and reap the benefits at the same time,” says Saleh, who started watching videos of Musk while he was in college.

WIRED asked more than a dozen young startup founders between the ages of 15 and 30 who inspires them. More than half brought up Musk. Others mentioned techno-optimists like Sam Altman and Patrick Collison, who seem to believe that technology can solve the world’s biggest problems, or entrepreneur-philanthropists with lesser-known startups.

None of them had read books about the history of Apple, Google, or Amazon; they said they were more inspired by forward-looking companies trying to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Olav Sorenson, who has taught entrepreneurship at UCLA and at Yale, says his students tend to admire people who have been “successful without selling out.” Some cite Seth Goldman—the founder of Honest Tea, who now chairs the board of Beyond Meat—as one source of inspiration because “he has focused his energy on investing in and supporting businesses with an ethical mission,” Sorenson says.

“This generation is looking at all of the issues and trying to say, ‘How can we start to be part of the solution to the problems that the older generation created for us?’” says Lori Rosenkopf, vice dean of entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Rosenkopf says that in the last few years, she’s noticed a shift in the way students talk about entrepreneurship—not just as a career alternative to banking or consulting, but as a way to start ventures with “a much greater social perspective.”

For many young entrepreneurs, Musk is the prime example of this mindset. “Elon Musk is literally picking up the tab for the mistakes that other generations have made,” says Baghadjian, who read Ashlee Vance’s biography of Musk in high school and has considered him a hero ever since.

Baghadjian says that while companies like Amazon and Apple have produced big innovations, Musk’s work with electric vehicles and solar energy was much more important.

Other young people were inspired by the trope of the startup founder who struggles on the way to success. One mentioned Musk sleeping on the floor in the Tesla headquarters, which they said showed grit. A few also mentioned the tale of Airbnb founder Brian Chesky, who maxed out his credit cards and subsisted on ramen noodles in the startup’s early days.

“There’s not a lot of glamour when you’re starting out,” says Pranjali Awasthi, who is 15 and is working on a stealth startup while she finishes high school online. Awasthi cited Musk and Altman as her heroes. But she also wished for more role models who look like her, a young woman of color. She says she was inspired to launch her startup in high school after she read about Laura Deming, who had started working on her own venture fund when she was 16.

A historic lack of diversity among high-profile entrepreneurs has left some young people without founder idols. “A lot of the founders people worshiped before have been straight, white men,” says Josh Yang, who is 27 and graduated from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business last year.

Women make up about 10 percent of tech CEOs, according to a 2021 report from the nonprofit AnitaB.org, and there are still startlingly few Black and Latinx CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. Yang, who identifies as a queer Asian man, doesn’t put much stock in the celebrities of the tech world. “I’m forging my own path,” he says.

So is Andrew Sun, an 18-year-old who recently launched a microfinance startup. He credits a high school teacher for getting him into entrepreneurship, rather than a celebrity CEO like Musk. “I don’t really have any desire to become a celebrity,” he says. “I want to be an entrepreneur who makes a substantial positive impact on our world.”

Arielle Pardes head shot - Wired

By:

Arielle Pardes is a senior writer at WIRED, where she works on stories about our relationship to our technology. Previously she was a senior editor for VICE. She is an alumna of the University of Pennsylvania and lives in San Francisco.

Source: Who Do Young Entrepreneurs Look Up To? Elon Musk | WIRED

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