Growing up, my idea of a "cool kid" was the tallest boy in class, (I was tall for my age and that's what I was looking for), or maybe it was the best athlete, the one who was the best at kick ball or dodge ball, or whatever game we played on the playground that day.
I was always a friend to the "cool kids" but I was also a friend to pretty much every kid I met. I would ask my mom when I was 7 to make playdates with a girl I met playing the clarinet, or a boy I met in computer class, or the kid who didn't really speak up but I wanted to get to know. I was so curious about the kids who played pranks all day on the principal, or the girls who were always getting straight A's but didn't speak one word during class, and was just as interested as the mean girls who were making fun of each other even though they were "best friends."
The idea of being "cool" changed, as I got older. After middle school, when I realized 99 percent of the boys in my class would hit a growth spurt and be the same height, I wasn't really into the tall jocks anymore, and started seeing the trend of what defined "cool" change. Mean girls were still prevalent and jocks were still prancing around thinking they "owned the school," but a new trend of cool was forming; smart became the new cool. Questions like, "what did you get on your SATS?" and "what schools did you get into?" became the new way to decipher who was cool enough to be friends with.
I was never super into grades until college, (I would rather just talk on the phone to as many friends as possible), and read the books I wanted to read, (rather than those awful summer reading books we were assigned), but I was very much into learning. I was interested in learning people's stories, hearing how they got to where they were and how they planned to get to where they wanted to go.
When I graduated college, the cool for a lot of men in my life was, "What firm are you planning on working at?" All of the "bros" I was friends with in school, from the athletes, to the frat boys, to the "nerds" were being recruited to work at one of the major firms on Wall Street, and I was placed right into the eye of the Wall Street storm, the hospitality industry. My first year in marketing and events, opening the most popular sports bar in the country, I interacted with men on Wall Street 99 percent of my days. These dudes became my friends, those in the custom made suits, and the custom created lives, buying everything and anything they could to make themselves feel whole.
Now, four years later, they are reaching out again to me, but not for a corporate happy hour, instead for advice. They are asking me, "How I got to where I am now," "What advice can I give them about the entrepreneurship space," and "Is there anyone I would recommend introducing them to, so they could be free of the chains they had created for themselves when they were recruited as a bright eyed and bushy tailed little senior on campus. Eight years later, they aren't so bright eyed or bushy tailed and they are looking for a way out.
This is not just a trend I have identified through my analysis of who is spending money in nightclubs and bars. It is obvious however to recognize that Ibankers are now being replaced by VCs, and those who are cutting the line at the hottest spots in town are no longer the Goldman boys, but are instead the guys who started Instagram. According to Inc. Magazine, and the article "So Long, Wall Street," Wall Street "refugees" are hitting the "street" (not so much the Wall Street anymore), and using their bonuses as seed funding to buy their freedom.
I see a whole new cool kid now. While a lot of people are running away from Wall Street, I don't agree that everyone should be an entrepreneur. There is something about being a calculated changemaker and identifying a problem in the world, finding a solution based on your skills and networks that is cool. Grey Frandsen, a recent Catalyst Week attendee is a new cool kid to me. Self identified as an "organization builder," he and his partners created a platform called Innovation Economy Crowd (ieCrowd) allowing them to build new companies around innovations that solve global challenges powered by entrepreneurship. Here is the cool catch; all the ventures that are a part of the ieCrowd portfolio are profitable, sustainable and game changing. You don't have to be self-sacrificing or a martyr to be cool, you can still do well and do good at the same time. That is the new future of business.
His most recent project (today, actually), Grey is launching a crowdfunding campaign (isn't crowdfunding just the new popularity contest?) to create a breakthrough technology called Kite Patch, which will protect humans from mosquitoes in a small, beautiful sticker, (the first batch of Kites to be sent to Uganda). Kite is the world's first product containing non-toxic compounds that block mosquitoes' ability to track humans -- and it lasts for over 48 hours. Maybe this isn't seen as cool to you, but it is really cool to the 60 percent of malaria-affected children in some regions of Uganda.
So all in all, the new cool are the people who are creating change in the world with the intention of doing good and doing well at the same time. They are not just creating businesses because their egos tell them to, or buying with a corporate card that will most likely be declined, they care about the world and themselves. So who are the new cool kids? The Techies, the changemakers, the creators, those who are building, inspiring, growing their own food, working with their hands to shift the world they live in are the ones who are going to change the way we see what cool is, how we help give the world what it needs and are not afraid to take on the future.