There’s a profound cultural shift taking place that founders need to be aware of — the coming-of-age of a new generation.
This shift was on full display with the GameStop / wallstreetbets phenomenon. Seemingly out of nowhere, millions of young, passionate investors were dominating the financial conversation.
When mainstream media came upon the wallstreetbets subreddit, it was like a parent stumbling into a kid’s “no adults allowed” treehouse. The disconnect couldn’t have been clearer — journalists struggled to make sense of an entirely new language of memes (💎🙌) while financial pundits bickered about the irrationality of youth.
Others, however, were much more in tune with the moment. Politicians like AOC hopped on twitch.tv for a fireside chat about the situation. American billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban was quick to denounce Robinhood and, days later, hopped on Reddit for an Ask Me Anything. Their ability to engage with Millenials and Gen Z in an authentic way (on their turf, no less) was a masterclass in modern communication.
I believe one of the most important goals for businesses today is to foster connections with the post-Boomer generations — first in the workforce, and then in the marketplace.
A Generational Opportunity
According to Pew Research, as of July 1, 2019, there were more Millenials than Boomers (72.1 million to 71.6 million). Whats more, Fast Company reported that Gen Z made up 40% of U.S. consumers in 2020.
Needless to say, the maturation of these two generations presents a defining opportunity for businesses, whether it’s a public company looking for capital or a young startup trying to gain market share.
In 2020, WorldatWork wrote that the average age for a CEO across industries was 59. With the oldest Millenial approximately 39 years old and the oldest Gen Zer around 24 years old, that means there is an age gap (chasm may be more fitting) of anywhere from 20 to 35 years between CEO’s and post-Boomer generations. For some context, that’s approximately how long it takes for the nostalgia pendulum — a resurgence in past culture — to swing.
In order to bridge this cultural divide, founders need to surround themselves with young professionals and learn how to work with them effectively. While conflict in a multigenerational workforce is inevitable, attempts to connect with younger demographics are all but guaranteed to fall short without someone that “speaks the language.” We’ve all seen our fair share of brands fail at trying to be relatable on Twitter.
Become a Part of the Cultural Shift
The cultural shift is well underway. As a result, an entirely new cohort of consumers and investors are entering the marketplace. Those that fail to recognize this shift and, more importantly, tap into it by collaborating with young professionals, do so at their own peril.