If there is one thing that we can all agree on, it is that Mississippi needs more jobs. One way to accomplish this goal is to fan the flames of entrepreneurship of our Generation Y business people. According to a Kaufman Foundation report, over two-thirds of our country’s net new jobs are created by new companies (one to five years old). Obviously, we need bold visionary entrepreneurs to take the risks to start these new companies and create these new jobs. Recent data suggest that Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are starting companies at a rapid pace. This generation born between 1977-1994 has over 70 million people and rivals the Baby Boomers in size. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reported that 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States are starting businesses at a faster rate than 35- to-44 year-olds. This is further explained by a survey done by OPEN from American Express, which found that 59 percent of Gen Y company owners described themselves as serial entrepreneurs, compared to just 33 percent of baby boomers.
There are a myriad of reasons for the entrepreneurial mindset of this generation. They have grown up watching their parents being downsized and witnessed our media culture create “rock star” celebrity status of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Sergey Brin (Google). They also are very comfortable with technology, the Internet and social media which are tools of their success. Higher education is also teaching more about entrepreneurship and sponsoring more business plan competitions. The National Business Incubation Association reports that there are over 1,400 business incubators today compared to only 12 in the 1950s. This generation is also bringing its own style to the workplace characterized by collaboration, an emphasis on work life balance,and blurring lines of work and play.
David Moore, age 29, is a Generation Y entrepreneur making an impact here in Mississippi. He founded Navagis, LLC, in 2008. Navagis is a Google Earth Enterprise Partner that provides technology and services to the GIS marketplace. Moore is a 2005 computer science graduate of Mississippi State University and was a NSF Information Assurance Scholar. He began his career at the Corp of Engineers in Vicksburg where he worked at the Information Technology Laboratory. He enjoyed quick success with the Corps, and in 2008 he faced the difficult decision of whether to pursue his advancing career at the Corps, attain his master’s in computer science on full scholarship in Scotland or start his own company leveraging his deep understanding of Google Earth and its capabilities.
After much prayer, counsel and deliberation, Moore fulfilled a lifelong dream and formed Navagis. After launching, Moore reached out to friend and fellow MSU grad Ben Hubbard,to join the team. Hubbard, also a NSF Information Assurance Scholar, had been working as a software engineer at Eglin Air Force Base. While still in the startup stages, the company is gaining a lot of momentum and has worked for clients such as Burns & McDonell, an international engineering firm, Virtual Texas and BHP Billiton, a global resources company. In fact, the company even touts Google as a client. Moore notes the strong entrepreneurial culture he sees while spending time in Mountain View and hopes to spread that back home here in Mississippi. According to Moore, “I have really enjoyed the journey so far. It is both exhilarating and scary to leave a good job and launch a new venture. It has been great to meet so many interesting people, and I have received a lot of encouragement along the way.”
I am excited to see developing businesses like Navagis which have the opportunity to create many high paying jobs in our state and raise our reputation in the technology community. Hopefully, more Millennials like Moore and Hubbard will consider this path, and I hope that we will continue to encourage them and celebrate their success. They truly are our state’s future.
Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.