Millennials, defined as the generation born between 1981 and 1997, surpassed boomers as the nation’s largest generation in 2016 and now number 75.4 million. But just because the members of this particular population cohort can tout that milestone doesn't mean they're universally beloved.
Related: 6 Ways Millennials Have Changed Business Practices
In fact, millennials have been maligned as “self-absorbed job-hoppers” who need to be coddled with participation awards and constant praise. They’ve been criticized for being glued to their iPhones and for scrolling Instagram feeds and Snapchat stories rather than engaging with the real world.
What's more, they’ve been dubbed a “materialist generation,” whose members will pay $10 for avocado toast but won’t make long-term investments, like the purchase of a home or a car.
While these generalizations make great click-bait headlines, the truth is a little more complicated. Some examples?
- College-educated millennials have longer track records with their employers than Gen X workers did at the same age, according to 2017 research from the U.S. Department of Labor.
- They're fiscally responsible: After all, they came of age during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Possibly as a result, 72 percent of millennials are saving for retirement, having started at a median age of 22.
- They’re also a generation of digitally savvy entrepreneurs who are highly collaborative and motivated by purpose, not praise.
As the following ten success stories demonstrate, millennials are a generation often unafraid to take risks to build something exceptional.
1. Kaspar Povilanskas, 24 -- Co-Founder, NowADays Media
Povilanskas gains a spot on this list because of his ability to have garnered over 750 million followers on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.NowADays Media, based out of Los Angeles, works to reduce cost per click costs associated with marketing campaigns, and has reduced costs to $.75 to $1.25 per click.
After dropping out of college at 20, Povilanskas helped bring an underground industry to major corporations and small businesses. With all those followers, NowADays Media has the capacity to serve hundreds of millions of impressions on branded content daily. By generating millions of downloads for apps and garnering just as many views on movie trailers, Povilanskas has helped revolutionize the way advertisers use social media.
Related: Millennial Entrepreneurs -- 4 Myths, Debunked
"The issue with most advertising today is that it is being ignored by Gen-Z and millennials since they are constantly being bombarded with marketing," Povilanskas told me "We've created a way to bring subtle, organic and effective advertising to a variety of industries. Our biggest app client won Apple's 'App of the Year 2017,' and we're now actively working with Current.us and Mark Cuban to bring a Blockchain-driven streaming app to the masses."
2. Kelley Weaver, 30 -- CEO, Melrose PR, and podcaster
Weaver makes the list for her passion for Blockchain technology. She was one of the first in the Blockchain world to create a public podcast, Crypto Token Talk, on the subject.
Weaver's Los Angeles-based company is a public relations and creative marketing agency for Blockchain and cryptocurrency industries. A true voice in the space (whose work has appeared in major publications), Weaver also creasted her podcast to feature new ideas and conversations with a range of crypto entrepreneurs and experts, set to launch in January of 2018.
Weaver is passionate about providing insight into the world of Blockchain for crypto enthusiasts and novices alike; as she explained to me, “Blockchain technology is still a relatively unknown and misunderstood industry, so my hope is that the podcast can bring the revolutionary technology to a wider and non-technical audience via dialogues between Blockchain industry leaders and veterans.”
3. David Raphael, 28 -- CEO, Infinity Growth
Raphael makes the list because of his work with Bloom, a decentralized credit-scoring system powered by Ethereum. He serves as marketing advisor on that company's board and helped Bloom raise more than $40 million in Ethereum during its token sale in December.
As CEO of Infinity Growth, based out of Brooklyn, NY, Raphael powers user-acquisition strategies for tech companies looking for explosive growth; Artsy and Wag are examples. He is currently a marketing advisor for Bloom, a protocol for decentralized credit on the blockchain.
"We announced Bloom on the same week that Equifax leaked the personal data of 145 million Americans," Raphael told me. "One of Bloom's most exciting innovations is that the constant transfer of sensitive data is no longer required for a lender to validate the identity and creditworthiness of a given borrower."
Bloom, Raphael said, reduces the reliance of the credit system on the three largest credit bureaus. "Instead of relying entirely upon credit bureaus, lenders can rely on the distributed trust of the Bloom network," he explained.
4. David Siu, 32 -- CEO, Novatron Capital
Siu earned a spot on the list because of his projects with small- and medium-sized enterprises. As CEO of an initial coin offeringincubator based out of Ontario, Canada, Siu works on many innovative and ground-breaking projects in the field of Blockchain technology.
One of the startups backed by Novatron is RepuX, a platform that allows small- and medium sized enterprises to share encrypted data with developers, who can then use these data sets to build customized dApps that will ultimately support SMEs in growing their businesses.
“In today’s digital economy, data is paramount, yet so many businesses collect data and then have no way to optimize it," Siu told me. "RepuX aims to provide avenues for these businesses to not only get the most out of their data, by seeing it integrated into useful applications, but to also earn rewards for sharing their anonymized data."
5. Dylan Dewdney, 37 -- Co-Founder, Harbour
Dewdney makes the list because of his passion to revolutionize democracy and the way we vote today. Dewdney’s company, Harbour, based out of Toronto, was born out of what he saw as a huge necessity to modernize decision-making and voting for the 21st century.
"Our aim is that our protocol and platform will help to evolve both democracies and organizations toward greater accountability, freedom, fairness and efficiency through using the inherent advantages of the blockchain," Dewdney told me "We use code to help the world make better decisions.
“Wonder, curiosity and even naïveté are some of the greatest gifts we have because they force you to ask the most basic questions," Dewdney continued. "They allow you to feel that there are still unique answers to those questions, and new roads to follow."
Keep wonder and hope alive, he said. "It is the accumulation of the more mundane stuff that forms any large achievement. Accumulation of small things takes dedication. Dedication unlocks achievement. Discipline allows dedication. And discipline is just a choice."
6. Charlie Hulcher, 24 -- CTO and Co-Founder, Spire
Hulcher, CTO of Spire, gained a spot on the list because his company, based out of Washington, D.C., is bringing Blockchain to smartphones in emerging markets. It's doing this by providing its telecom partners with pre-installed "Digital Currency Wallets" and access to a curated marketplace of decentralized applications (dApps).
By delivering equal access to products and services, we can help level the playing field, in terms of unlocking every individual’s potential, financially and socially," Hulcher told me. “With the cost of smartphones plummeting, access to electricity and 4G connectivity getting more reliable and new technologies like Blockchain and edge computing coming online, emerging markets are facing huge change.
"Suddenly, trusted access to identity, remittance, contracts and sharing of all kinds of resources is possible and affordable, decentralized across networks of smart devices.”
7. John Wise, 32 -- CEO, Loci
Wise, CEO of Loci, makes the list because his product, InnVenn, allows inventors to conduct their own research at a fraction of the cost of hiring a patent attorney.
The idea behind Loci, based in Sterling, VA, originated during Wise’s time working in the automotive racing industry. “Loci encourages inventors to claim and patent their ideas by making the patent research process more user-friendly and straight-forward, with fewer hoops,” Wise told me.
8. Zachary Dempsey, 19 -- CEO, Slogan Social
Dempsey earned a slot on the list because his company runs accounts for some of tthe biggest influencers on social media.
As CEO of Vancouver-based Slogan Social, an influencer marketing and social media-management company, Dempsey and his team oversee the management of hundreds of nfluential accounts on Twitter and Instagram. With a combined following of over 250 million, Slogan Social has achieved over 2.5 billion organic impressions per month, Dempsey claimed.
"In today's age of digital marketing, brands are struggling to keep the attention of their consumers. In order to stay relevant, brands need to embrace new mediums and leave behind old strategies," Dempsey told me.
9. Melissa Quinn, 27 -- Corporate development manager, RightMesh
Quinn, of RightMesh, makes the list because of her project with Blockchain. RightMesh, based in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, is putting connectivity into more people's hands with its decentralized, mobile mesh networking platform. The platform uses the tokenization Blockchain allows to encourage users to share surplus Internet bandwidth with those in need.
Quinn was recently appointed director of the Blockchain Users Group in Canada, and is an advocate for women working in that technology space. “Our mission has always been to connect the next billion people in emerging markets, and enable a new subset of users to have the same social and economic benefits many of us take for granted," Quinn told me. "However, it is apparent now more than ever that mesh networks, and the incentivization of good behavior within that network are needed here in North America as well."
10. Ben Chester, 28 -- Co-Founder, Bedly
Chester made the list because of his innovation in creating a new process to meet a basic need: finding a new apartment. In fact, Chester himself and his co-founder -- his roommate -- went from living in what he described as a closet to raising millions.
The two were frustrated with the antiquated process of apartment-hunting: the need to deal with brokers, utilities, furniture shopping and inflexible leases. Since Chester's company, Bedly, based in New York City, started as a side project, it's raised millions in VC dollars and rocketed Bedly to extreme heights. Today, Bedly is the largest co-living platform in New York and Boston and has helped thousands of renters simplify their housing needs.
“Landlords are offering a product that doesn’t make sense to modern renters. We’re transforming apartment rentals by providing a simple, seamless experience previously unheard of in real estate.” Chester shared with me.