By Marta Bright, Bobbie Hartman, Elijah Merchán, Kate Pavao, Fred Sandsmark, and Joe Shepter, November 2009
The Kids Are Alright In fact, they can teach you a thing or two about getting work done in the new economy. Donna Fenn started noticing something big. As a magazine writer covering entrepreneurs and small businesses for Inc., she started noticing more and more very young entrepreneurs—and hearing about entrepreneurial programs and business plan competitions targeting people born between 1977 and 1997.
“It just struck me that something really interesting and important was going on,” remembers Fenn. “I wanted to know more about who these young people were and what was motivating them . . . and if those businesses looked different from the businesses I’d covered in the past.”
Her new book, Upstarts!: How GenY Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit from Their Success, is a result of interviews with more than 150 young business stars whose businesses range from an event planning company using technology to get ahead to a moving company that has built a brand around its student athlete employees.
Their stories are often inspirational—not just for these young leaders’ ingenuity and energy but also for how they are able to integrate social causes with their business goals. Sometimes their companies made a social impact before making profits. “For example,” says Fenn, “the women who ran Happy Baby made a commitment at the very outset to feed a child in Malawi for a day for every unit of Happy Baby food they sold here in the U.S.”
Business leaders can learn plenty from Upstarts!, from how to use every resource available (including Web 2.0 technologies) to how to find—and fill—holes in the market. And they can learn a lot about Gen Y’s very different attitude toward work: “This is the first generation that expects work to be fun and meaningful,” says Fenn.
Coolest Apps for the iPhone Apple iPhone applications may be just the ticket for the techie in your house who just can’t seem to get enough. Better still, many of these apps are free or under US$10. Here are a few of the Profit editors’ favorites:
Books. Read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War with Amazon.com’s Kindle app and learn 2,500-year-old lessons in “competitive ethics” that still apply to business today.
Healthcare and fitness. iFitness contains hundreds of workouts, grouped by general areas on the human body and by specific muscle.
Music. Can’t come up with the name of the song that you are listening to? Shazam eliminates all uncertainties by using technology that listens to a segment of a song and then notifies you of the song title, artist name, and more.
Internet telephony. Web-based Skype offers free text and phone chat to other Skype users, as well as the ability to call out to any phone number and have a voice mail service.
Travel. Urbanspoon categorizes different food genres, locations, and prices and uses your current location to find the perfect restaurant for you. Great for discovering new places to eat.
Parking. Using the GPS feature of the iPhone, Take Me To My Car places a marker where your car is parked so you can find it later.
Rocking Worlds (and Businesses) Most musicians can think of nothing more fun than jamming with some of the best players in the business. That’s exactly the idea behind Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.
The brainchild of entertainment promoter David Fishoff, the camps run anywhere from a day to a week and feature at least a dozen rock stars. Attendees join a band and receive constant attention from a bona fide rock star counselor. Together they learn songs, practice hard, and in the end perform live at a famed venue.
“I love giving people back the passion in their lives,” says Fishoff. “Being able to find what they truly love—that’s what the camp really does for them.”
Fishoff’s extensive Rolodex provides campers full access to members of bands such as The Who, KISS, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, and Aerosmith—just to scratch the surface. Campers eat with the stars, hang out, and most importantly, play music with them. Take a moment to watch a few of the videos posted on the company’s Web site, and you’ll see how rockers start out building a rapport with fellow campers, but soon take to the stage and jam alongside the stars with gusto.
“People are surprised at how down to earth and accessible they are,” says Fishoff of his all-star camp counselors. “They have the same issues—they’re just more talented onstage.”
Beyond the music, the camp also offers a crash course in team building. Bands aren’t successful if everyone isn’t on the same page. This aspect of the camps so impressed Oracle cofounder Ed Oates (see Embracing Your Inner Rock Star) that he suggested offering the concept to companies as well. Fishoff agreed and now arranges special camps for corporate events and retreats.
Embracing Your Inner Rock Star In researching this article, Profit reporters learned that Oracle cofounder Ed Oates is a big fan of the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. A passionate guitarist, he has played with the same band, CHOC’D, since college and attends camps whenever his busy schedule permits.
Profit: How did you hear about the camp?
Oates: I saw an ad in Guitar Player magazine, and it said it was an opportunity to meet [Beach Boys songwriter] Brian Wilson. It was right around the 40th anniversary of my band and my 60th birthday. So my wife said, “That’s it, you’re all going to camp.” And so we went.
Profit: What’s the best experience you’ve had at a camp?
Oates: Meeting Jeffrey Foskett, who is the musical director for Brian Wilson’s recording and touring band. We met, and I found out he’s from San Jose, so we started talking about old bands in the San Francisco Bay Area and we became friends.
Profit: How do you think these camps can help businesses?
Oates: The thing about putting a band together is that everybody has a role to play. You can have a star sometimes, but most of the time, it’s a collaborative effort. People teach one another. Even if there’s a weak link, the band is unsuccessful if you don’t let that weak link shine. Like a business, a band has to market itself, find out what its technical skills are, and what its vision is. A successful band does that and also learns how to navigate changing times.
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Seeing Magic in a Scientific Light Some people think magicians practice a somewhat dusty craft, but Susana Martinez-Conde, a visual neuroscientist at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, sees illusionists as fellow researchers in cutting-edge science of the mind.
“Magicians are artistic manipulators of consciousness and attention,” Martinez-Conde declares. She works with Las Vegas, Nevada, pickpocket Apollo Robbins (Teller of Penn & Teller fame) and others to tap into illusionists’ knowledge of how the brain perceives what the eyes see.
Martinez-Conde’s work with magicians could have huge applications in business. She points to eye-tracking studies that advertisers and package designers conduct. “Magicians will tell you that the location of the gaze of a viewer is not that important,” she says. “What matters even more is the ‘attentional spotlight.’ Marketing experts would do well to pay attention to this.”
Stoking Your Literary Fire With Kindle According to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, Kindle sales make up 35 percent of sales of books available in both electronic and old-school formats. Now that the reading device has firmly moved from tech geek territory to the mainstream, is the next-generation Kindle the ‘it-gift’ for the rabid readers on your list? True bibliophiles might miss the smell of a real book, and although the price has been cut from a starting point of US$399 to US$299, it still is a pricey gadget. But with most of the more than 300,000 titles available for less than US$10 a pop, the ROI is actually pretty quick. And for executives with taxing travel schedules, packing a 10.2-ounce Kindle creates a lighter load than finding luggage space for a Sunday New York Times.
With the Kindle’s adjustable font size and an above-average text-to-voice option, your eyes will thank you for years to come. For more information, go to www.amazon.com.