As June approaches, the million and a half students set to graduate from college in the U.S. this year likely have just one thing are their mind: the job market.
For each of these students faced with an uncertain, unstable or imprudent future, there will be a strong impulse to pursue the safest path, often on the periphery of their passions. So to all this year's graduates wavering between boring job prospects and graduate school admissions, debating backpacking trips across Europe or Latin American missions with the Peace Corps, we propose an alternative. Instead of looking for a job: create your own.
The time for entrepreneurship is now. Employment may be scarce, but opportunities for talented students and recent grads to start companies are abundant, especially in the U.S. Increasingly, our national attention is focused on entrepreneurs, with university and government programs supporting R&D and offering low-interest loans for new ventures to start and scale. Tools like crowd-funding and out-sourcing are cutting costs and allowing entrepreneurs to bootstrap from virtually nothing. Accelerators and incubators are sprouting up across the country, transforming once quiet cities into interconnected innovation hubs.
And as countries become more connected, more and more entrepreneurs are launching enterprises that operate across countries, continents and around the world, catering to cultural differences and regional needs. The international impact of startups like Facebook, Twitter and Google have laid the groundwork for new wave of global thinking.
Growing up on a small farm in New Jersey, Jason Halpern remembered the difficulty of installing solar panels so far off the grid. Small farmers, he realized, had much to gain from solar but its complex and costly infrastructure placed it out of reach for many.
While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Halpern and childhood friend Pat Murphy set out to create a portable and affordable solar generator designed for farmers. After participating in contests and attending conferences at their school and around the area, they pieced together a prototype. They won a $500,000 Edison Innovation Fund Cleantech Grant from the State of New Jersey. And today their company PowerFlowerSolar is developing a range of portable solar generators for farmers, the military and for use in disaster relief. "Bringing power," as Halpern says "to the places that need it the most."
Not every young entrepreneur has such a clear vision from the onset. Some stumble into entrepreneurship with only a vague plan. Upon graduating Wharton in 2009, Jonathan Hefter turned down lucrative job offers in finance and moved into his parent's basement where he taught himself to code. It was then that he came up with the concept for the Neverware Juicebox, a super-fast, inexpensive server that speeds up old computers.
After getting an invitation to join New York incubator Dogpatch Labs, he was able to perfect the first server. Today, Neverware Juiceboxes are revitalizing outdated computers in public schools across New York and New Jersey.
While these entrepreneurs are exceptional, their stories are certainly not unique. They are only a few among the growing number of top students and recent grads in the U.S. and abroad foregoing the arduous process of job seeking for job creation. They are turning their passions into products and experiences into enterprises. They are working across a wide range of sectors and distant geographic locales. They are seeing opportunity in uncertainty and in doing so shaping the future and from the stories of their success a new generation of young talented people might be encouraged to do the same.
At the Kairos Society this is not only our hope -- it's our vision. As the world's most expansive network of student entrepreneurs, we are committed to making our vision a reality. By connecting the world's most promising young entrepreneurs to each other and the resources they need to succeed, we are helping to foster the businesses that will drive the future and continually question what is possible.