Campaign/FTC disclosure: I will receive paid sponsorship for promoting this campaign. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. This opportunity was made possible because of my participation in IBM’s #NewWayToWork Futurist Program. I am not formally employed by IBM. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
There isn’t a week or month that passes where you don’t have the bad fortune of coming across a doom and gloom article about Millennials. If experts aren’t warning us of the demise of the workforce as we know it – they are busy labeling an entire generation of people as being needy, lacking work ethic, technologically savvy and many other half-truths that seem to be fodder for the usual generational conversation.
With our workforce slated to be infused with a 75% millennial workforce by 2025, it is clear that we either need jump on the millennial bandwagon or move out of their way. This generation has learned well from previous generations. They know what they want and will not settle for anything less. Call it “obnoxious” or “entitled” it doesn’t much matter. The point they drive home is that we all have a purpose- we just need to find it and execute.
If we are to believe any of the stereotypes, the millennial-led startups in IBM’s #NewWayToStartUp competition will certainly provide a different lens for this often misunderstood generation.
What is the #NewWayToStartup Competition?
It’s easy to say we support innovation but what are we actually doing about it? IBM has taken action to foster innovation by creating a startup competition of ten millennial-led companies that are focused on social good. They invited one member from each startup to SXSW in March to pitch their venture to an expert panel. Ten startups pitched their companies whereby five startups were eliminated.
The remaining five teams went on to participate in a week long accelerator that included daily challenges and granted them the a year’s access to IBM’s Watson Analytics and their newest software, IBM Verse.
The progress of the startups is documented in webisodes that have chronicled their participation since the pitch event at SXSW.
The grand-prize winner of the competition receives free entrance into TED@IBM for up to three team members.
If the prize sounds cool- you will be equally impressed with the actual companies and founders.
Putting good things back into the world
If you’re going to go to the trouble of putting in the hard work, blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice that is synonymous with entrepreneurship, why not create something that benefits everyone? This is the kind of innovation and creativity that IBM is trying to foster through the #NewWayToStartup competition. Each of the five companies have founded their companies on the premise of being helpful and putting something good back into the world. After watching all of the webisodes, I was inspired. It left me feeling like the world may have a chance – if we have founders and companies like the ones I’m about to describe.
Being under the pressure of strict deadlines and the lens of some of the greatest minds in business is nerve-wrecking. Anyone who has ever pitched their company or has been a spectator of a pitch competition would know how that feels. Bravery comes to mind when I think about how vulnerable you feel as a founder sharing your idea with the world. At a minimum, they should all be applauded for taking a chance on themselves and their companies.
If you think I’m pulling your leg about the greatness of these startups, here is a short description of what each company does. I dare you to not feel inspired by what these millennials missions.
The Lassy Project– gives parents the ability to notify an entire local community about a missing child in seconds. They use a combination of community, data, and technology to create a new global standard for personal and public safety.
Owlet Baby Care- is a wearable infant monitor that can alert parents if their child’s heart rate or oxygen levels are in a dangerous range. They are caring parents who want to usher in a future where, just like a car seat, every baby comes home with a wearable health monitor. A future where there are less infant funerals, and more empowered parents.
Sproutel– makes health and wellness a playful part of everyday life. Their first product, Jerry the Bear, is an interactive learning companion for the 18% of children with chronic illnesses that combines animated content with an electronically enabled stuffed animal.
Stretch Recipes– is an app developed to help everyone eat better and save more by building an amazing app that will help empower people who are stretched for time, energy, resources, and knowledge to enter their budget, choose their meals, and automatically get their shopping list and coupons.
Charity Charge– is a platform to help customers create positive impact each time they make a purchase. Their first tool is a credit card enabling customers to donate 1% cash-back earnings to charities and organizations of their choice.
As a parent, I was immediately moved by ‘The Lassy Project’ ‘Owlet’ and ‘Sproutel’. The worst thing in the world that can happen to a parent- is to have a child go missing. The Lassy Project makes notification simple and quick by notifying networks of loved ones and friends-with the ability to escalate to authorities-if need be.
Two years ago my youngest daughter became ill with a bout of Pneumonia and we nearly lost her. A product like ‘Owlet’ would have been extremely helpful in our initial assessment of her condition. Not to mention that this has the ability to rid us from anymore sudden infant death cases.
With regard to ‘Sproutel’, who doesn’t love a cute teddy bear? It is beyond cool that children with chronic illnesses can have a friend in Jerry The Bear- while also learning more about their disease.
Both ‘Stretch Recipes’ and ‘Charity Charge’ have great promise, as we are in a time where every penny and minute counts for so many families. They are saving people time and putting customers money to work in beneficial ways.
As I mentioned in the beginning, so much of what you hear about millennials is negative. These millennial-led companies are doing what they love while adding to the greater good. In fact, the team at Owlet has taken lower salaries just to see this venture through. This is the kind of passion and sacrifice that awakens the senses and creates engaged workforces. I will wager, that we can all learn a great deal from these founders.
Whether you work for someone or for yourself, it is a necessary practice to ask yourself – if you are:
1) Being of service to others.
2) Working with a purpose in mind.
3) Passionate about what you do?
In Webisode 3, I love the talk the Mayor of Austin, Texas has with the founders. He mentions to them that what they are doing is not an academic exercise. He emphasizes the importance of failing quickly and creating something great in the world. This kind of advice is completely contrary to the advice fed to previous generations. With several generations in the workforce at once, it is no wonder there are misunderstandings and disconnect among the generations.
How much more productive and cohesive could we be as a workforce if we became comfortable with failure? In this webisode, you come to understand that failure is not a negative, but a necessary stepping-stone towards success.
Who will win?
Social voting is going on and ends today. The winner will be chosen on July 1st at 1-2pm EST. I won’t dare make a prediction. The original 10 were great and certainly the final five are all fantastic.
Call me a nerd, but this is the sort of reality television I could get used to. These founders are tackling some of the most important problems of our time. The reach and magnitude of what they are developing has the ability to change lives and the world. IBM should be applauded for giving these innovators the spotlight to share their gifts and passion with us all. This competition has the ability to not only inspire younger children to start their own businesses, but to inspire older generations to create the business they have been putting on the backburner.
The workforce is beginning to look very different- which may scare some. I prefer to get excited about the future. There is definitely something different about millennials, but it isn’t bad. They see the world differently than most generations. At the core of who they are, they care about others and are dedicated to creating the kind of society that favors everyone. On that sentiment alone, I have a renewed sense that the future for my children is bright because millennials are on a mission to make the world better one startup at a time.
Join me in supporting these impressive men and women, by watching the entire webisode series. You can check out the pitch competition below- along with links to all of the subsequent webisodes.
Webisode 1: http://youtu.be/bcrtgmID3uI
Webisode 2: http://youtu.be/bcrtgmID3uI
Webisode 3: https://www.youtube.com/
Webisode 5: http://youtu.be/5Xrn8fxA30o
For more information on the #NewWayToWork Futurist Program and the work we are doing, go to: www.ibm.com/futurists.