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The following is an interview of Paul McNeal, who together with Jack Liu, is organizing the Teen Business Summit, the world's first 100% virtual global conference for teens.
What is the current state of teen entrepreneurship?
Teen entrepreneurship is thriving on a global scale. At the age of 13-19, I myself was certainly not thinking at the same level as today’s teens or doing as much as they are doing now. We watch this industry closely, and while blockbuster companies may be hard to spot right now, we believe the overall numbers are growing rapidly and that more and more examples of teen businesses will gain media attention.
Here’s one example. There is a 16 year-old, Dan Palanchuk, who is doing very well with affiliate marketing. We don’t ask for numbers but on Dan’s blog, he showed he makes 5 figures in a month. And he’s on track to do one million dollars in revenue in 2011, an incredible feat for a teenager.
You may never have heard of Dan, but you will probably be hearing about more cases like this moving forward. And that’s because teenagers are now realizing that there is nothing holding them back from launching successful ventures.
How is all this possible? The Internet! It’s really that simple, as the Internet supplies these teenagers with the platform and tools to act on their ideas easily, cost-effectively and quickly. And social media is helping to accelerate teen entrepreneurship even more, by extending their reach exponentially.
What are the biggest trends in teen entrepreneurship today?
Over the past year, teen startups are on the
rise, with teenagers taking the risk to put themselves out there. We are
not sure if this could be the result of a poor global economy or the
barrier to starting a business being lowered by technology. However, the
old thought process of “go to school and then get a job” is being shattered.
There’s much more parallel-pathing today.
In addition, an increasing number of teens are creating businesses
online. Yes, there will always be the lawn mowing business, the weekend
painters, or the cupcake enterprise. But the really savvy teenagers are
making money on Fiverr, creating iPhone apps, and marketing products
online. I say they are “more savvy” because in an offline business, you
can only market to whoever you can physically meet. Not so with an
online business. With online marketing and sales, the scalability is
tremendous. And with an iPhone app, you create it once and sell it at $1
(a price at which literally everyone can afford), but you are selling
it to everyone in the world, as opposed to everyone in your community.
That is what we are seeing right now. We believe that this will be a
stepping stone to help them launch their future businesses – ones like
Facebook, Microsoft, and others. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates were
both teen entrepreneurs well before they started those companies.
What is the Teen Business Summit?
Teen Business Summit is the first-ever global entrepreneurial conference conducted 100% virtually. We are bringing together both veteran and teen speakers from around the world to share how to “Create A Better Future” and a way to network like never before. It is also free to attendees, as we wanted to give access to every teen in the world.
Here are just some of the incredible people who will be speaking at the conference:
- Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple
- Yanik Silver, Internet Marketing specialist
- Matt Mickiewicz, founder of Sitepoint, 99Designs, Flippa, and more
Teen Business Summit is also the first-ever virtual conference that is going to be streamed live. It will take place August 22-24, 2011.
What was the impetus or inspiration in creating the Teen Business Summit?
South By Southwest. After attending the conference for several years, I was talking with Jack Liu about the ability to host a conference. Realizing that our community is made up of teens around the globe, it didn’t make sense to attempt to host one In Real Life (IRL) so we thought, can we do it virtually? We wanted to do something remarkable for the community and this is the beginning of that.
What do you hope comes out of this conference? How will you measure its success?
We hope that each person who attends this conference is excited and motivated to create sound and ethical companies. We hope they are able to see what is possible when you follow your passions and take action. We hope that they are able to network with other Teenpreneurs and will become members of Teen Business Forum so that we can continue to encourage and mentor them as they grow. We will measure our success by the growth of our community, the final count of people who attended, and testimonials from attendees.
What’s the future of teen entrepreneurship?
You are going to start seeing teen business highlighted in the media more than ever before. If you look at the media right now, about 1 in 5 business articles talks about a teen entrepreneur. We believe that’s going to increase to 1 in 3 in the near future.
Looking ahead, we are going to start seeing many more teens starting big websites that get people’s attention. An example of a teen business garnering significant media attention is ChatRoulette, founded by Andrey Ternovskiy (who was only 17 at the time) and built in literally “two days and two nights.” The site has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Good Morning America and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
An even more visible representation of teen business, and something that already generates massive media attention, is the business-savvy of today’s teen musicians, whether a Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus. This is quite different than in decades past, where a musician was a musician. Instead, today, a teen musician is a business empire-builder. This is only going to inspire other teenagers to launch their own ventures.
So buckle your seatbelt. You are going to be hearing a lot more about teen entrepreneurs and teen business in the months and years to come. A LOT MORE!