Once, parents may have worried if their school leaver announced they wanted to be an 'entrepreneur'. But, rather than being a code word for unemployment, these days being – or becoming – an entrepreneur is a far more standardised, formalised and demystified process, and one they can pursue through study.
Your child won't be in your garage, because there are co-working spaces. Better still, they can be fed and watered (for free) at the many beer and pizza start-up 'pitch' nights, where they practise selling an idea to investors.
They'll pick up skills and network at the many 'hackathons', which are often sponsored by government departments and corporations. And many universities now offer subjects and programs where they can work on their start-up idea with institutional support, both educational and financial.
We have moved well away from the mistaken idea that entrepreneurs are born, not made. The research tells us that young people can acquire an entrepreneurial mindset and the practices that go with it. For your child, that's a skill set they'll need not just to pursue their own business ideas for but for employment in the workplace of the future.
Here's what you need to know to know if your school leaver wants to be an entrepreneur:
Are all start-ups started in a garage? What if I don't have a garage?
If you don't have a garage, don't panic. There are now co-working spaces (picture beanbags, ping pong tables and desks) where your child can work to develop their idea. They can hang out and work on their project in these places from $38 a day or $300 a month.
Don't get me wrong: these spaces are more than a desk (or a ping pong table). They're a community of support where people can connect with other entrepreneurs, and with designers, analysts and investors – even their future CTO or CXO (chief technical officer or chief experience officer).
Is anyone ever going to buy that idea?
You may not be able to understand what it is that your child is working on, and you may wonder whether anyone else can either. Good news: part of the 'start-up way' is testing your ideas quickly and cheaply with real customers so that's OK.
Google search 'lean start-up' and get used to talking about their minimum viable product (or MVP).
Even better, they can freely engage in pitching events and competitions where they'll get immediate feedback. Co-working spaces run such events, and they often come with pizza – as well as investors on the lookout for the next big thing.
Government agencies and companies are also getting in on the act by sponsoring hackathons – usually one- or two-day events that bring together a range of people with entrepreneurial mindsets to tackle problems (often 'wicked' or particularly difficult ones).
Have a look at the great work of TechFugees, being run in capital cities around Australia. Hackathons are a great way to connect to the innovation 'ecosystem', learn the lean start-up process – and get your kids out of the house for the weekend.
You want money for what?!
We know from research that most of the early-stage money for start-ups comes from – wait for it – friends and family and, yes, their personal resources. This reliance on minimal capital, let alone debt, is known as 'boot strapping'. (You're probably old enough to remember the term 'to pull yourself up by your shoelaces', or bootstraps.)
But with many universities like UTS now offering entrepreneurship subjects and accelerator programs, students often get to work on their idea as part of their course. Better yet, they'll meet others who may become 'founders' too, potentially even chipping in funds.
Being part of a larger institution brings other benefits too. There are competitions and accelerator program (8-12 week boot camps), which are often free to join, with winners securing what can be serious prize money and in-kind support (such as a free spot in a co-working space).
Will my child ever be a unicorn?
Research has moved us well beyond the idea that entrepreneurs are born not made (remember when Donald Trump was held up as an entrepreneurial success story?).
Recently published in the prestigious Science Magazine, a World Bank study using randomised control trials found that psychological training on developing a 'personal initiative' mindset (a self-starting, future-oriented and persistent proactive mindset) significantly improved business success.
This entrepreneurial mindset involves looking for ways to anticipate problems, better overcome setbacks and fosters better planning for opportunities and long-term preparation (sound a bit like what you tried to instill in them at home?).
So if your child's start-up doesn't become a unicorn – a start-up that hits $1 billion value – that sort of mindset means they'll be valued by any organisation and needed in tackling some of the complex problems facing society today. We all need to develop a courageous generation asking "surely we can do better?" and then making it happen.
Danielle Logue is Associate Professor, Management Discipline Group, UTS Business School. This opinion was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald's Tertiary Choices feature on 8 December.