Two times today in two different cities in two different countries in two random cafes I’ve found myself sitting next to a couple of guys talking loudly (proudly) about their startups.
“You know, we should really do a start up,” one American guy kept saying over and over to his Finnish friend. “I can do this, you can do that…on and on. We’ll probably fail but it will be fun! Really, we should do a startup!”
In Tallinn they were a little more serious:
A Canadian (assuming) in a varsity jacket (seriously) who seemed to run some kind of accelerator was giving a consultation meeting to some local guy who was working on his own tech startup. He made an app or something. The Canadian was giving him lessons on how to get started, etc. It was clear that this was their first meeting. The Canadian acted like he was excited about the app and talked about all the great things it will achieve via their glorious new partnership.
Tech startups seem to have become the new way to get some cool on you. Where we used to douse ourselves in cool by playing in bands, this is apparently now done by starting businesses.
I have to admit that this is vastly more productive, engaging, and useful than what we ever could dream of pounding power chords and screaming about “the system” in basements. This is a movement that has made high-tech innovation, mechanical engineering, software programing, marketing, web design, and running a business fashionable. What’s intriguing is that the cultivation of these skills will still be useful at forty. And some of these kids will make something that we will actually use.
Although there is something lacking here; the youthful enthusiasm to break the rules and flail away at the parameters of your culture — essential for eventually learning why those parameters exist (i.e. maturing) — just isn’t there. When we’d think of rebels, we’d think of people like Rimbaud, Bakunin, and Bukowski. Now, rebels — or disruptors, as I believe they’re now called — are people like Steve Jobs.