I really like the word “disrupt” as is relates to today’s startups. Creating new platforms and social networks to improve upon existing practices has an inspiring effect. Ideas don’t need to be earth-shattering to shake existing institutions, but rather simply unconventional in their approach to niche problems.
As someone accustomed to taking the institutional route, I have found the prospect of executing my own disruptive idea to be invigorating. I began my career out of college working in finance in New York City and participating in the arena of billion dollar companies. While this was an exciting way to begin my career, I always hoped to transition from investment banking to a job that would more directly impact my generation.
So I left my job in banking to work on PadTies. PadTies harnesses the power of social-media savvy millennials to take the traditional “word of mouth” method of finding off-campus housing online. Connecting students and landlords across university campuses, the site hopes to provide better information and transparency for students in their first independent real estate transaction – moving out of university dorms and into landlord managed properties. At its core, PadTies tries to instill more responsible consumer practices in young adults by encouraging financial decision-making based on all-available information.
How did I get involved with PadTies?Watching the financial crisis unfold my senior year of college, I became increasingly interested in the relationship between young adults and personal finance. The prosperous Clinton years pampered our generation and encouraged more indulgent behavior. As millennials had grown up in this world of credit without a disciplined view of debt, the recession prompted us to confront the unfortunate repercussions of our spending habits. I am convinced that finding ways to promote better consumer habits and economic behavior for Generation Y can help avert another crisis later down the line.
If young adults better understand real estate, mortgages, and credit, our generation will be less likely to adopt the practices that led to the 2008 meltdown.
I believe it is technology that can successfully influence my target demographic in this area. After all, according to a nationwide survey by Pew Research Center, “Among Millennials who see their generation as unique, technology use is the single most popular response. Roughly a quarter of those under age 30 say technology is what sets their generation apart.” Having myself lived through the problem of finding off-campus housing, I am confident that the PadTies approach will appeal to this distinctive characteristic.
To startup, or not to startup? That is a very personal question, and you should be honest with yourself about your ability and desire to execute an idea. Leaving an institutional job to build a company is hard while starting out because it is a different type of hard – the success and failure of an idea depends entirely on you. The challenges are no longer building a complex financial model, but instead drafting a simple equity contract. Compared to investment banks with unlimited resources, proven corporate strategies and established products, startups are nimble and resourceful entities passionately trying to alter niche markets. Nothing is predictable, and everything is fought for.
Millennials are often described using adjectives ranging from tolerant and open-minded to meandrous and self-indulgent. But the choice to pursue an idea and start a business challenges all of those descriptions and empowers us to be decisive, accountable and informed. I am inspired by my peers who translate their passions into products, and who find creative opportunities in underserved markets. I am excited by the prospect that PadTies can become an integral part of student life on university campuses.
There is plenty of opportunity out there to shake the system. Let the disruption commence.