It starts with a man called Nick D’Aloisio. He was born in London to Australian parents and his story involves some geekery, a bit of obsession and a convenient dose of luck. The punchline: Mr D’Aloisio has just sold an app on the iStore to Yahoo! for somewhere around £18m ($27m). Oh, and he’s 17 years old.
By his own admission, his life is “ridiculous.” Sure, he had a head start – his mum is lawyer and his dad a trader for the investment bank Morgan Stanley, so he is likely to have had financial support – but it was more an obsession with programming that led to his success. His ‘Summly‘ app is really simple – it just summarises news automatically to fit a mobile screen. I mentioned yesterday how ‘app developer’ is a job that didn’t exist 10 years ago…well iTunes only opened its app store in 2008, so I suppose you could say that the job is actually half that old.
Mr D’Aloisio is the success story. The surprise may be a consolation for members of the jinxed generation – that he is not alone. Starting businesses is more popular among young people now than at any time in the last decade. And you don’t have to be a geek – loving chocolate may just be enough. (Though doing your hair like you’re too cool for school seems a prerequisite.)
In 2011, almost 8 per cent of British 18 to 29 year-olds were in the early stages of setting up or running a business – more than twice as in 2002. Granted, sometimes creating your own job is the only option left when employers won’t pull their fingers out. Although 2012 job creation in the UK was actually quite impressive considering all the other economic doom and gloom, the country still needs another 870,000 jobs to reach the same level of employment as before the banks screwed us all over.
The reasons for the UK’s high level of young entrepreneurship is more surprising than the increase itself: wannabe Richard Bransons say that business opportunity outweighed necessity when they started their companies. Almost half of those already self-employed said that starting their business was the best decision they ever made (I’m hoping the other half think that the decision was merely up there with skipping the latest X-Factor).
Despite my proclamation that the British government is sleeping on the job when it comes to young peoples’ issues (true, in many cases), there is some support available for the entrepreneurial disaffected (although much of it is not government-run).
The Prince’s Trust is great for advice and funding, Start Up Britain is an advice network run by entrepreneurs and Start Up Loans does what it says on the tin. The latter is a government policy which just completed a successful trial period – they dosh out a few grand to young people with good ideas.
But (and here’s the bit to be annoyed about), the government has only allocated £117.5m ($178m) to the programme between now and 2015. MPs spend about two thirds of that amount on themselves every year.
Bottom line: it’s not just tech geeks who make a fortune out of starting a business. Although it may not seem like it, the time is ripe.