Book Review: Upstarts

Donna Fenn’s Upstarts is zippy tour through the Generation Y mind, and a must read for students…all of them. It handedly demonstrates that the Internet has created an economic atmosphere where individuals can achieve success with little capital, an Internet connection, and a niche market. The book reads rather quickly; I’m a slow reader and breezed through 100 pages in two sittings. Itty-bitty page-and-a-half case studies illustrate the countless ways children as young as Bar-Mitzvah age have brazenly taken on entrepreneurship through rabid networking. For instance, in high school, Bryan Sims convinced his classmates, everyone from jocks to nerds, to give tiny donations to an investment club. The result was a face-to-face micro-lending stock club that netted $25,000 (that’s a lot of Twilight memorabilia). Sims, now a 25-year CEO, heads Brass magazine, a finance education publication which has 37 employees distributing to 35,000 readers.

Perhaps more importantly, businesses are wising up to the efficiency of Gen Y anarchy, such as Best Buy, whose foray into the “Results Oriented Workplaces” has increase moral as much as profits. Workers in ROW are allowed to come and go as they please, so long as the work gets done. This suits the new generation, as mobile devices have blurred the line between work and play, in what amounts to a 24-workday/weekend hybrid.

For older businessmen, Upstarts is an entertaining crystal ball into the future. It might even help persuade a curmudgeon-y CEO to adopt more flexible management policies. But, I think its greatest contribution is as a textbook in inspiration to every student. I’ll be recommending it to my students immediately,

Greg

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