Originally published on August 26th, 2015 in AlleyWatch:
“We are witnessing the downfall of the U.S. economic growth engine as U.S. student test scores are way below test scores of other countries.” I have seen the aforementioned quote in countless media publications for my entire life, but the quote is flawed. American students, whether or not they were born in the U.S., are number one globally in the most crucial economic category that nobody acknowledges, which is confidence. Confidence leads to innovation. Innovation leads to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship leads to business models getting funded. Business models getting funded leads to risk taking. And risk taking leads to GDP growth.
Most generations criticize the next generation for being too entitled or the previous generation for taking on too much debt. Each American generation blames the one before or makes renegade critical comments like “don’t trust anyone over 30!” Each generation has the confidence to disrupt the previous generations’ business model empires and the confidence to question authority. This isn’t just a Haight Ashbury phenomenon; it transcends generations. The one common link all generations of American students have is the ability to confidently take risk and sell the dream of global innovation or global social justice.
The American Dream is based on the notion of confidence and innovation. Anybody can make it in America regardless of their backgrounds or where they were born. Due to this, there is a belief in the U.S. that anything is possible. Some of the best salespeople in the world were students in America regardless of where they were born. A great CEO is a great salesperson and a great salesperson has above average confidence. In all of our portfolio company investments in venture capital we look for a little bit of Marc Benioff or Steve Jobs, two quintessential, confident, brilliant visionaries and salespeople. Individualism and freedom of expression is embraced in America. Some other countries are more conformist, which leads to the antithesis of individualism and entrepreneurship and we hear of quotes like “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” In the U.S. failure is not shameful. Rather, entrepreneurs in the U.S., whether or not they were born here and regardless of their age, see defeat as merely a challenge to try again.
Confidence among American students is more apparent today than ever before. It’s hard to keep track here in the Bay Area of the number of successful student-founded ventures over the years where a student creates an overnight multi-billion dollar company, such as Facebook, Apple, Google, etc. Also, with ubiquitous mobile broadband offerings, expect the number of new multi-billion dollar disruptive business models to accelerate. In addition, given the extraordinary low cost of cloud computing from companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, the barriers to entry for start-ups are also extremely low. As a result, it is significantly easier for larger companies to see their business models disrupted by student run start-ups.
Each generation is given a label from Generation X to Generation Y to the Entitlement Generation, and so on. I refer to the current generation as Generation C for Confidence. With confidence comes innovation, prosperity and continuous generational improvements in economic productivity and social justice; I applaud the sub 25 year old Generation Confidence, as no other generation has had the same positive impact on older generations as the current generation. The cynical pundits that are calling for the long term downfall of U.S. economic growth due to poor student test scores have flawed logic; tech innovation has always thrived in the U.S. due to youth with confidence.