My journey as an entrepreneur began when I was fired from a consulting job and then had a minor falling out with the start-up I had joined as the second employee. I was 28, with no mortgage, wife, nor children then, and little to lose. I could afford to take a risk and start my own company. Just do it, I told myself. The result was lastminute.com.
Looking back, 28 is not such a young age to set out on an entrepreneurial career. Last month I was pitched a business idea by two 14-year-olds; the week before I launched a competition at my old school for ideas for education technology start-ups.
We are now familiar with the concept that good ideas can come from anywhere: any age as well as any place or background. Young thinkers may be more inclined to see opportunities than constraints, and a splash of naive optimism is a good, perhaps even essential, quality in an entrepreneur.
When Martha Lane Fox and I recall our early days at lastminute.com we often say that if we had known about all the barriers we would have to overcome in challenging incumbent operators we would never have started.
For us, as for many founders, the key was to dive in and get on with it. Neither of us had any formal business education and we learnt by trial and error, trusting we would make enough good decisions to outweigh the bad.
Part of the trick, as in poker, lies in the assessment of risk. So how can we help our aspiring entrepreneurs master this skill and improve their chances of creating sustainable businesses? The key is to introduce our children to entrepreneurial thinking early. We need more initiatives that teach business skills, the importance of lateral thinking and logic — and, most importantly, that business done well should be fun and purposeful.
My own ambitions were inspired by entrepreneurs in my family and an outsider’s desire to challenge the establishment. My first encounter with business skills came in running a club at school. There was no entrepreneurship society; today that is the most popular club in many schools. Then at Oxford, 25 years ago, I entered the university’s first business plan competition, and came second. I also took over running a French club and enjoyed turning it from a free membership of 50 to a paid one of 500, and attracting sponsorship from L’Oréal and Société Générale.
Since my time as a student, there has been a dramatic change in attitudes to entrepreneurship by the young and a host of initiatives to encourage it. I am an adviser to MyKindaCrowd, a platform for corporates to set business challenges to students. It taps into the creative surplus at schools and universities and gives young people a way of getting close to business.
Bizworld, founded by renowned venture capitalist Tim Draper in 1997, provides a fun, project-based way for schoolchildren to learn business and entrepreneurship basics and has reached more than 500,000 children.
I have been struck by the impact it has on the most academically troubled kids. For many of them it generated a new enthusiasm about school and turned around their academic performance. The transformative power of entrepreneurial ambition is evident in Bejay Mulenga, who credits his tuck shop business success with reigniting his interest in school and getting his grades up. His Supa Tuck teaches GCSE-age students how to run a tuck — or food — shop. This summer, he is launching an ambitious scheme in which 500 teenagers will invest ￡30,000 into a pop-up tuck shop, with the aim of turning it into half a million.
Further afield, the Steve Case-backed non-profit UP Global is an inspiring example of stimulating grassroots entrepreneurship internationally. A merger of Startup America and Startup Weekend, its events have attracted more than 100,000 aspiring founders.
For young graduates in the UK, there are plenty of opportunities to develop skills and network such as those offered by New Entrepreneurs Foundation, a charity supported by business. I would like to see many more such organisations and believe it is an area where incentives from government could be effective.
Now that I am a parent, it is a delight to watch my daughters drive out the competition in the Loomband wars with a limited time price undercutting strategy. They are lucky to be growing up in an age when entrepreneurialism is more accessible than ever before. As digital natives with no baggage they are ideally placed to just get on with it.
Brent Hoberman (@brenthoberman) is co-founder of lastminute.com, made.com, Founders Forum and Smartup.io
当玛莎?莱恩?福克斯(Martha Lane Fox)和我回忆起我们创建lastminute.com的早期时光，我们常说，如果事先知道挑战现有运营商必须要克服的所有障碍，我们绝不会开始创业。
著名风险投资家蒂姆?德雷珀(Tim Draper) 1997年创建的Bizworld，为学龄儿童提供了一种有趣的、基于项目的方式去学习商业和创业基础知识，超过50万名儿童已经接受了这样的培训。
我被这些培训对学习上最有困难的孩子的影响所震惊。对他们中的许多人来说，它带来了对学校新的热情，并使他们的学习成绩转好。创业雄心的改造力量在柏杰?穆伦加(Bejay Mulenga)身上体现得很明显，他认为在经营小吃店上的商业成功，帮他重新燃起对学习的兴趣，让他的成绩得到提升。他的Supa Tuck向中学阶段的学生传授如何运营一家小吃店。今年夏天，他将推出一项雄心勃勃的计划：由500名青少年向一家小吃“快闪店”(Pop-up shop)投资3万英镑，目标是将它变成50万。
在更远的地方，史蒂夫?凯斯(Steve Case)支持的非营利的UP Global是一个在全球激励草根创业的鼓舞人心的例子。UP Global将创业美国(Startup America)和创业周末(Startup Weekend)合并，其活动已经吸引了超过10万名有抱负的创业者。
对于英国年轻的毕业生来说，他们有很多发展技能、拓展关系网的机会，例如由企业支持的慈善机构——新创业者基金会(New Entrepreneurs Foundation)所提供的。希望能看到更多这样的组织，而且我认为在这一领域，来自政府的激励可能会很有成效。
布兰特?霍伯曼(Brent Hoberman, @brenthoberman)是lastminute.com、made.com、Founders Forum 以及Smartup.io的联合创始人