Our era is witnessing the incubation of new businesses by the very young in a way that seems unprecedented.
The internet has made it possible for people in their teens and twenties to connect with ideas and resources with a swiftness that was simply not possible in previous generations.
Not all these startups are profit oriented, and some are decidedly not high-tech. All this suggests their longer endurance than the dot-com startups of a previous decade.
Since these youthful innovators and entrepreneurs are wildly disparate in every imaginable demographic, it is hard to see common characteristics.
These include their willingness to think unconventionally and stand behind their idea that they seem similar.
Consider the following examples of these ground breaking youth, their innovations, and the environment out of which they have grown.
The most deliciously quirky of the recent startups is a business founded by some kids at Emerson College, located in Boston.
Known for strong music and drama departments, this college is the alma mater of the only official suppliers of Muggle Quidditch apparel, Eric Wahl and Matt Lowe.
Muggle Quidditch, as anyone not under a stupefaction spell recently should know, is the fast-growing sport inspired by the Harry Potter book series.
These young men founded Quiyk, which sells colorful game-day robes, in the iconic style of Hogwarts. Will this last?
Alternatively, will the Potter heads mature, move on, and lose interest in running around like crazy folk in long, shiny dressing gowns?
It hardly matters- these young folk have tapped into a current cultural phenomenon, met a heretofore-unknown need, and capitalized on it with style.
The experience they garner from this venture will stand them in good stead for their next enterprise.
A much more serious business was started by Carolyn Yarina, a chemical engineering major at the University of Michigan.
Taking note of the fact that health care practitioners in less developed regions of the world do not necessarily have reliable access to electrical power, she invented a hand-powered centrifuge.
This apparatus, built by her company, CentriCycle, can assist in performing a range of critical diagnostic tests on blood and other bodily fluids.
She eventually moved her operations to India, and is now actively seeking partners for manufacturing and distribution.
Another social entrepreneur, Gabrielle Palermo, is increasing access to health care in remote areas by converting shipping containers into cheerful, clean, mobile health care spaces.
Gabrielle Palermo started out at Arizona State University, which awarded her a $20K entrepreneurship prize.
The USA is not means the only breeding ground for highly creative business ideas.
Zhang Yichi, after attending Tongji University in China, York University in the UK, went on to prestigious Cambridge University and created a spell checker that he hoped would correct deficiencies in Microsoft Word’s spell checker.
For serious writers, and especially for those anyone for whom English is a second language, this accomplishment rivals world peace (and, incredibly enough, it is free).
Once out of school, Zhang Yichi, whose company is called Greedy Intelligence, actually returned to his home town of Hangzhou. His company now develops English instruction software.
Though China does possess very young female entrepreneurs, the numbers are smaller. The most dramatic example is Zhang Yan.
Her firm, UC Nano, specializes in those clever sensors and touch controls that make modern cars and equipment so convenient.
Greenway Grameen Infra
In other parts of the world, entrepreneurs are starting young as well. Neha Juneja and Ankit Mathur, founders of Greenway Grameen Infra, won the 2012 Intel Global Challenge at UC Berkeley for their innovative stove design.
Listening to rural women’s complaints about smoke, they created a single burner stove that runs on more or less whatever biomass one has on hand.
Africa’s Marishane Ludwick started creating new products in 9th grade. His first innovation was a new formula for a biodiesel fuel, followed by a healthy cigarette, a mobile dictionary, and a magazine focusing on security.
The invention that he is working on marketing and distributing now is a waterless bathing product called DryBath, an important contribution for people in water-poor regions.
Schools, corporations (for example, Intel), cities, and even nations, are getting into the act to help encourage and launch youthful entrepreneurs.
For example, what is termed a ‘collaborative online community’ is helping very young Indian entrepreneurs to leave the nest and get airborne.
Fledgewing, founded by two alumni of NYU, is turning its attention to India. The vast youth population is one reason.
The higher education system, which is one of the largest worldwide, is another. In the UK, Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds and a grant from the East of England Development Agency can help student entrepreneurs even if they are not from the UK. In South Africa, the Capetown Entrepreneurship Competition identifies potential superstars.
What all these kids have in common is good ideas, and a willingness to take them to the marketplace.
Youth is no bar to success today, with internet access to backers and mentors literally around the globe.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net