How The "Me Me Me Generation" Plans To Save You You You

Alex Capecelatro, CEO and founder of At The Pool, has a story that may give you hope for the millennial generation.

Not too long ago, the cover of Time featured a photo of a young girl taking a "selfie" with the headline "The Me Me Me Generation." If that wasn't enough, the cover explained "Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents" and then offered the kind of hedging newsmagazines are famous for: "Why they'll save us all."

Alex Capecelatro is a millennial who doesn't quite fit the "lazy, entitled" description. Capecelatro is the founder and CEO of At The Pool, a social networking site that uses the power of the Internet to build communities offline and he has a story that, while unique, might shed some light on the potential of his cohort.

At the age of 22, Capecelatro was on the X Prize Foundation’s Zero Gravity Flight alongside Elon Musk, James Cameron, and 4-Hour Work Week author Tim Ferriss.

Fundraising for the X Prize Foundation is only one of the many gigs Capecelatro has had. While still in high school in a suburb outside of New York City, he ran a website for BMX bike enthusiasts with his brother. Instead of homecoming and prom, Capecelatro spent his senior year doing biomedical research at a government lab in Washington, D.C.

After that, his scientific pursuits took him across the United States, doing materials research, biomedical research, and even rocket science for the likes of NASA, Harvard, and the University of California, Los Angeles. While majoring in Materials Engineering at UCLA, Capecelatro was also working on a cure for diabetes. (He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 12.)

Since then, he has also worked in design, PR and marketing, and sustainability for electric-car company Fisker Automotive. Not bad for a kid.

Founded in 2011, At The Pool is Capecelatro's current project. "It kind of bothered me that the Internet didn’t do anything to help us actually meet people offline and build better communities," he told Fast Company. Now 25 years old, Capecelatro is working to harness the social power of the web and mobile tech to improve the lives of people in the real world.

At The Pool has been hailed by some observers as the "anti Facebook." Instead of connecting you to people that you already know on a walled-in website, it introduces like-minded people online and facilitates offline social experiences.

Say you've just moved to a new city. You love running and philosophy. At The Pool will connect you with people in your neighborhood who also want to chat about Aristotle after a run.

Capecelatro's many accomplishments have been supplemented with a healthy number of educational failures; he has closed companies, clashed with cofounders, and dealt with "straight-up crooks." All of these experiences (both good and bad) have left him with some serious business knowledge, so here are a few things that you can learn from a millennial:

You don’t need a degree to do that.

"If you focus on this stuff, it’s not usually that hard, you just have to talk to the right people. Even the rocket science stuff--at the end of the day, if you have a decent knowledge of math and science, it’s not that complicated. . . . I’m not going to do everything or be the best at anything, but if I learn just enough to speak the language, I can have a conversation with the experts."

Build a team of people that you want to spend time with.

"Surround yourself with a strong team. And yes, you need some experts with certain skill sets, but it’s just as important to choose people that you are willing to spend time with."

When building your team, don't hire a skill set, instead, says Capecelatro, choose people "that you wouldn’t mind going for a hike with after work," and trust that, "most people will step up to the plate and learn the skills that they need.”

Doing good is cool.

"At the end of the day, I have a lot of friends who spend a lot of time playing video games and not doing a whole lot, but that’s sort of looked down upon," says the recent certified solo skydiver. "Our generation admires people who are creating products and companies that do things to make the world a better place.”

Hitting adulthood for many millennials meant massive debt, political disarray, and a brutal job market. When viewed in a more positive light though, it can be said that these uncomfortable conditions forced this generation to find creative new ways to get by, if not entirely redefine success.

Millennials may have their critics, but as Capecelatro says, "Our generation seems to be really fixated with wanting to make the world better." To some young folks, it's not just about "me"--it's about all of us.

[Images courtesy of Alex Capecelatro]

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23 Comments

  • Mateo On Mongo

    As an aging boomer (aka "geezer"..lol), dunno that any 'generation' has ever had a corner on achievers, slackers, or even 'me-me-me' narcissists. Perhaps my
    generation, just like our own parents, simply each had the advantage of a particular "issue", whether it was the Vietnam war or WWII, that helped give us a sense of collective identity, even if all we may have ever done is simply shouted a few slogans, smoked some weed or just dressed kinda different. But when all is said and done, it has still always come down to the INDIVIDUALS who appear in EVERY generation, with the energy, leadership, vision and hard work... which their successors in turn eventually build on. BTW, kudos to Capecelatro, what a terrific idea!

  • Friend of Mr. Dobbs

    Sorry, but one mans success does not a successful generation make. Good for him, but the tag still holds.

    The me, me, me, generation has to get out of the video-gaming, Facebook needing, selfie-picture taking, texting while driving, and pull their head out quickly. Not because they are a worthless generation that has no chance of survival, but because of what previous generations have left them, which to put it lightly is a country that is politically falling apart at the seams, and an unfriendly, staggering economy, and a broken educational system which in no way guarantees employment let alone success.

  • Nicole

    This article said nothing like the title suggests and was more an advertisement for this one guy and his social media project.

  • emailedanonymously

    Meh. 1) I doubt half the things this article attributes to this young man. 2) I doubt the millions of millennials raised in less than advantageous circumstances are doing as well as this young man. 3) I doubt highly that even the general high school or college graduate millennial is doing as well. 4) Every generation has high achievers, millenial or not, however, more often than not the millennials I have encountered are at best technologically literate but socially naive bordering on professionally inept. Sorry.

  • Entreb

    People can really affect the lives of others if they could be truer. That is why, whether it is social media marketing or just getting the attention of many people, it's always good to be true.

  • Chris

    I remember about a year and a half ago reading an article from Esquire titled "The War Against Youth." It talked about the relative wealth and occupational inequalities between baby boomers when they were young adults and current millennials, as well as how the political and cultural climate changed in this country over the last thirty years that has brought us here today. Interestingly enough, youth today in the US are not in a situation too dissimilar from what we faced thirty years ago. However, whereas many back then rejected Carter's Malaise speech, young adults today have been more receptive to fixing what's broken and finding novel means of enterprise. At The Pool is no different with these regards. However, as the site matures and gets utilized more, older adults will have less evidence to accuse the "Me" generation of narcissism.

  • Johnschultz831

     

    This young man is a real world example of the what young
    people have done through history. I am the father of a 20 year old. She is one
    of the hardest working people I know.
    Because of my business I have been on the internet for 30 years so I know of
    the power of it. Infact we started a lot of the pioneer work. I love my
    smartphone and all the apps and  I am 60.
    I notice most of the people starting this argument on both sides teachers, life
    coaches, and psychologists. My dad had a saying from his generation “Those who
    can do, those who can’t teach”. This young man does. We should ignore the
    others.

  • Griffin

    Human interaction may be changing. Or we may not be interacting at all anymore. At The Pool seems to be making a sincere effort to help people become more active outside of the internet and more involved in the lost art of face to face conversation. I respect that. 

  • njguy54

    Anyone familiar with Meetup knows that this concept is nothing new... but At the Pool seems to take it to the next level, making it mobile and designing for an audience already comfortable with Facebook.  Sometimes an incremental change in an existing model is all that's needed to really make it take off.

  • Tyler

    I've been waiting for someone to harness the power of social networking into making people actually more SOCIAL -- instead of mindlessly clicking likes on their friends' filtered photos. At The Pool seems like they're ready to put the "Social" back into Social Media, which has been greatly disconnected with millions of millennials. Getting people outside and offline, and into meaningful conversations and interactions with the physical world -- is not an easy task, but one that At The Pool seems poised to do. 

  • Chuck

    Alex seems like a really impressive individual doing some really inspirational things.  I think the Idea of using a social media platform to get people off social media is really interesting and could be the perfect way to get kids active and outdoors.  I am looking forward to watching this company take off.

  • CodyColin

    There is very little out there that inspires me more than a young twenty-something making a life and not just settling for one. It is incredibly encouraging that this successful young man is successful because he is really good at, well, life. Everything else tends to follow. I look forward to what this company has to offer as well as whatever endeavor is presented by this young entrepreneur in the future. 

  • Jesse

    I heard a statistic that the average kid spends 5 minutes a day outside, this is 90% decrease than the previous generation. Hopefully this type of work can help get people excited to do fun things out doors!

  • Bill

    Seeing people like this makes you think about the false barriers we put up for ourselves. People are capable of so much more than they think. You only need to spend a moment with someone like Alex to reconsider your definition of impossible... I guess spending moments with people is what the app is all about!

  • Matthew Gallizzi

    This is awesome! I completely agree on Alex's comment on building a team. During the interview process, I start out with personal questions. What do you do for fun? Why do you do that? How did you get into that? If I can click with them on a personal level and they seem like someone I would be interested in spending time with, then I ask about professional experience. (Which, for the record, I find college dropouts more valuable if they can speak truth that I agree with on why they did it).

    Great stuff here, I share the beliefs.