Investors and millennial founders must adapt to each other to survive.
You know the statistics like those from Pew Research indicating that Millennials (18-34 in 2015) are expected to represent the nations largest living generation. We also know that there will be significant workplace changes that will impact how business is conducted.
What about investing in millennials?
To best understand how to invest, we first must understand what drives this generation. There are many research articles and thought pieces around the topic but these three strike me as most relevant to how one might think about investing in a millennial startup. Millennials are:
- social animals and digitally share their lives freely,
- slow to marry and slow to commit to large material items (houses, cars, etc.),
- create and most importantly are committed to a lifestyle that leans heavily to personal and family wellness.
What does this mean for Boomer and Gen X & Y generation investors? Fundamentally it means that they will not look like the founders we are used to seeing.
As social animals, they will share both their personal and business life in any number of social platforms. This has advantages for you (you can get a pretty quick glimpse into their character) as well as challenges (they will share the entire roller coaster ride with their tribe–business warts and all). As an investor, you must prepare for those occurrences.
Being slow to commit to traditional artifacts like marriage, a house or a car enables millennials to make material life-changes quickly. We are seeing this already as newly born founders pick up their 2-5 person company and move halfway across the country. Again, this has benefits to you as investor (“please go to wherever you can build out the next phase of your company with the least amount of friction”) and it poses challenges (your face to face connection will now be replaced with Skype). With less financial encumbrances, millennials are not as artificially bound to a traditional maturity path and thus are able to make life-altering decisions.
Lifestyle, and all that this implies, is critically more important to millennials than previous generations. Where we were much more willing to sacrifice, they prioritize a balanced lifestyle. We non-millennials eat poorly, sit on too many airplanes, push workouts to weekends, and over-commit to the business. By going in the opposite direction, millennials make choices that we would not make. The ramifications of this choice include decisions like less travel (need to share the parenting duties), and daily workouts that carve into traditional work time.
What does this mean for investors? We will need to view these founders through a completely different lens. The days of 60-hour workweeks for startup founders may be long gone. Be prepared for your investment’s darkest secrets to be exposed on Instagram or Facebook. Tomorrow you may see a tweet that the company is moving to Durham, NC or Durham, England. As the largest living generation and the current generation with the most energy, these founders will represent where our future investments live. Your challenge is to adapt.
This article first appeared in INC.COM – find more of my articles there.