How Rap Star L'il Yachty Leads Hot, New Millennial Take on CEOs

06/19/2017 08:52 am ET Updated Jun 20, 2017
Rapper L’il Yachty
Photo by DJ Booth
Rapper L’il Yachty

Millennials are ushering in a bold, new, dynamic concept of what it means to be CEO of a business today, and the trend is smashing all previous notions of stiff boardrooms and cushy corner offices. The C-Suite as we once knew it, is dead. Millennials are in the process of re-defining the corporate power game with new rules, new time frames and new technology to better suit a new era that is more inclusive and nimble. And the movement is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. In fact, rap star L’il Yachty is a prime example of what could be called the neo-CEO, and he, like many of his fellow Millennial head honchos are only just getting started.

“I just decided early on that I just didn’t want to live a normal life, period, “ explains Yachty. “That’s just boring.” So he, like many, many others are re-defining former career standards and carving out new terrain. Indeed, a recent study by America’s Small Business Development Centers indicates that almost half (49%) of Millennials intend to start their own business in the next 3 years. A whopping 41% of Americans would quit their job to be their own CEO and start a business in the next 6 months with the right tools and resources. And the study also shows that 61% of Millennials believe that the best job security would come from owning your own business and being your own CEO.

So much for gold watches after 20 to 25 years of service as an employee. You see, this new vibe is about rising to the top by creating new paradigms and setting one’s own standards of success. Remote working is over. It’s now just work, and it might even be a 24 hour work day, when needed. The new style CEO with new values is not stopping for anything or anyone. There are no corny focus groups. Instead he or she is living the target customer lifestyle and knows it better than anyone in a safe ivory tower. He or she is fueled by passion over experience (with a learn-as-you-go attitude) to create a more fulfilling and self-defined life than what previous generations have shown us before. But the main factor is that there is a break-the-rules attitude that is powered by various tech devices used on-the-go in any environment.

Indeed, while there may be some controversy about Yachty’s rap “membership,” anyone can agree he is right on trend with his approach to building abusiness empire and has the zeros in his bank account to prove it. “I decided first to focusing on developing friendship over numbers at first. Then, I had friends who went to bat for me when it was time to drop my music. It was like having a whole street team.” And much of this relationship-building was enabled by the use of tech devices, particularly high-end tablets and smartphones, as Yachty shuttled between New York City and Atlanta to work on his dreams and build his empire on his own terms. It’s clearly paying off as evident in his sales, the Sprite commercial with LeBron James, sold-out concerts and more.

Ryan and Adam Goldston, founders of the luxury high performance sneakers APL are also indicative of this powerful trend. Barely able to keep up with orders after the footwear was banned by NBA, the Goldston brothers trajectory is nothing but upward. “We’re on the road a lot, so having the right devices is important. Tech has actually allowed us to become the company we have become.”

And none of this is being lost on the tech giants. They are noticing and watching these influential business tastemakers, and understand the synergy. In fact, Samsung specifically brought Yachty and the Golston’s together during an intimate panel that explored the intersection of entrepreneurs and tech at the company’s slick 837 location in downtown Manhattan. “This is truly a new age of business leadership,” Alana Cotton, Vice President of Mobile Computing Marketing at Samsung Electronics America mentioned during her opening remarks. “This is about going for one’s dreams.” The new Samsung Galaxy Book was made with this new trend in mind. The product offers a variety of powerful new features, but there are some intriguing stand-outs. For example, not only does the Galaxy Book sync with one’s mobile phone, but it also offers quick sign-in by using the fingerprint sensor right on one’s phone so that the neo-CEO can make magic happen even faster.

Other tech companies noticing this trend and supporting the new, rebel CEO are brands like charging kiosk company Veloxity. Companies can rent or buy the kiosks to provide a secure charing station for CEOs-on-the-go. Veloxity’s Rewopp app is then used by an individual to locate charging kiosks in large cities to find a location to obtain secure charging without being tethered to a wall outlet allowing the new style CEOs to wield social media, close a deal by voice and review a contract for his or latest product endorsement without missing a beat in a private area away from the typical charging crowd.

But it’s not just the mobility that makes this trend staggering. Perhaps the biggest departure from CEO 1.0 may be the drive to conquer multiple planes simultaneously. “No one is meant to do just one thing, and you can make so much money if you try to pursue all your passions,” explains Yachty. Yup, today, it’s about the multi-hustle. This mindset is actually where the multi-hypenate term came from not long ago. Think Diddy: producer, actor, clothing designer, record label owner. In fact, hip hop always thought this way. Any given day could be about selling one’s own mixtapes out of back of truck while selling a friend’s t-shirt on line afterward and doing hair later on. Now the concept is mainstream. Why? “We think outside the box and don’t wait for a green-light so we have an advantage and if you do it right, you can connect to the masses,” says Yachty. “I’m always on so if you hit me on social media, chances are, I’ll hit you back. People see that and, naturally, want a part of that.”

L’il Yachty running his empire through tech
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
L’il Yachty running his empire through tech

This drive and approach could also be attributed to being part of a marginalized demographic. For example, only 1% of all tech start up funding still goes to founders of color, so one has to be creative.

However multi-avenue pursuits is not only a hip hop or music neo-CEO phenomenon. It clearly extends to sports and a prime example is Derek Jeter. While he may be a bit holder, Jeter definitely has Millennial flow when it comes to a business approach. He not only has his own publishing venture but is brand development officer at a health-oriented frozen food company called Luvo, and of course, founder of the “Player’s Tribune” a digital platform that provides content written by professional athletes. His business partner Jaymee Messler spoke at the same event with Yachty and the Goldstons. Messler reveals, “Tech is important because time is an athlete’s biggest commodity so they are always on the move. It’s very much like this for Derek. He weighs in constantly on ‘Player’s Tribune’, but its’ often times done remotely. We do a lot via video and by using technology like Bluejeans to drive the brand. Next up, we’re even going to be producing virtual press conference for athletes via Twitter Live.“

No doubt this trend shows no signs of stopping but many will begin to wonder whether it is sustainable and/or what might have to give up when one is constantly pulled in variety of directions without any base or foundation. It’s so very easy these days to receive an email that says, “Sorry if this seems scattered. Sending from airport.” Other cases may exhibit difficulty in differentiating physical space. A neo-CEO was recently spotted at a hip downtown Manhattan restaurant speaking loudly on a call while literally pacing back and forth across the length of an entire restaurant while his laptop waited for him on a table, all much to the dismay of a few other customers. But the Millennial is a force that creates new cultural standards as it creates new approaches, so who knows? There could soon be designated work-eat areas of restaurants completely outfitted by tech giants. Only time will tell, but as it builds it will all be a thrill-a-minute to watch.

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