Young Entrepreneurs in Vancouver

Trevor Westerlund

our fictional aristocrat

Those of you who know me, know how much I love working within the startup community; and, if you didn’t, now you know! As part of working within this community, I am a mentor with startup entrepreneurs between the ages of 15-18 who are members of TiE Young Entrepreneurs Vancouver. You might wonder, “Why? These are just kids”. If this thought crossed your mind, let me share my recent experiences with these motivated, enthusiastic, hard-working, and increasingly well-connected future CEOs.

Consider Alexander Knoll, a 12-year-old inventor, who appeared on The Ellen Show to pitch his product: an app that will help people with disabilities navigate public services, spaces and employment opportunities. Alexander left the show with a cool $25,000 and support from The Ellen Show’s very own app developers, along with plenty of media coverage. How’s that for success at 12-years-old?

In the past when I worked in film production, I was successful in the editing room. I had moderate technical skills, which were enough to create a good story, and for this I earned a healthy income. Then Hollywood North took off and suddenly every film production school had long waiting lists as demand skyrocketed. During this time, new technology was coming out and going straight into the hands of the younger generation. Companies started picking up new talent - young talent emerging directly from programs where they’d been taught not only editing, but also VFX, 3D modelling, working with brand new software, and more. At just 30 years of age, I had become the “old” guy on the post-production team, so I jumped to software and the burgeoning app market which was just taking off.

I now see the exact same thing happening in the startup world. As an entrepreneur, I launched and developed a few of my own organizations and have been through plenty of accelerators, so I’ve seen and experienced it all. The emerging trend is that founders are developing and growing businesses straight out of high school. They’re innovating, they’re disrupting, and they’re ready to take on the role of CEO, Founder, CTO, and more. These “kids” are ultimately going to change the world.

Back to the TiE class I worked with this year... these budding entrepreneurs were excited to share their ideas with me. I thought many of their ideas were brilliant, yet it was their enthusiasm that really caught me. It is this level of drive and innovation that will herald the shift in business between the old guard and the new. If given the chance, I would have invested in a couple of the companies (or really their founders) on the spot. Their ideas were developed, they were quick to point out their client personas and needs, and they were even quicker to point out the lack of competition for their specific ideas. Some of the students had already started learning how to code, or were interviewing influencers in the spaces they were diving into. Their ability to maneuver through social channels for information and connections impressed some of the best community marketers I know. They work faster and leaner, and they are already reconstructing business culture before they have even graduated from high school.

As I was departing my session with this group, I was asked why I volunteer my time to help budding young talent in Vancouver. I turned back to them and said, “because one day I will be working for one of you - consider this my interview”.