The NZ-Australia Investment Forum this month was told there is a new breed of entrepreneurs that is not well understood and not well served but whose contribution to the economy could be tremendous. Net Generation entrepreneurs grew up with the internet. They are mostly young, possibly still in colleges or universities, or fresh graduates starting careers.
The key to helping them is to supply funding without being afraid of losses, and let them fail fast so they can move on quickly and hit the business idea that will be a success, says Microsoft software industry development manager Kirk Drage.
He characterised them as entrepreneurs that "may not have the business experience, may not have been out in the industry and may not have seen all the opportunities and understand what lies ahead".
But he says, this young generation "understands the entrepreneurship model around the internet and are out there and doing it". Ways should be found to help turn them into successful entrepreneurs.
Datacom New Zealand chief executive Greg Davidson says the prevailing culture "puts too much emphasis on picking the winners and not enough emphasis on providing the right environment and allowing the talent and good ideas and hard work to come through".
He says we need to stop just backing "those things that we think are going to succeed" and instead focus on providing young entrepreneurs with early support.
Drage says the approach to the new breed of internet entrepreneur must be one of "accelerating their fast failure".
Fast failure helps people get business experience by learning quickly and failing cheaply - so they can make another go with the process and become "serial entrepreneurs", he says.
"We are hoping they'd go through this process three or four times until they find a successful business. We want to be there on that third or fourth time when they hit success."
Also, given that these young people are not business savvy enough to gain the respect of the investor community, Drage believes the wider IT industry needs to help out.
He says there needs to be an environment "where industry and these entrepreneurs can come together to find opportunities".
"The industry knows where the opportunities are, and these young guys have the capability and capacity. We need to go to a forum where we can bring these elements together and allow the market to decide where the solutions are and where the investments happen."
Drage says there is an opportunity to "play a facilitation role" and bring the industry to some of these start-up businesses "to help them understand what the opportunities are".
"If government doesn't do it, if the software industry doesn't do it, if the investment industry doesn't do it, it's going to happen generationally.
"Within the next 20 years as these kids grow from college to business, they are naturally going to get entrepreneurial understanding and experience.
"We can either do nothing and wait for that to happen or we can interject and start to facilitate a sort of collaboration, " Drage says.
Infosys New Zealand and Australia chief executive and managing director Jackie Korhonen says online entrepreneurs are chasing the right market.
She says the wants of the next generation of "digital consumers" is one of the disruptive forces in the global economy. She describes them as "real consumers with money to spend", "with different ways" and different ways of using media. Independent
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