Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Generation Startup: Too Little, Too Late?
entrepreneurship is at all time low for the 18-30 age bracket, which makes
sense considering they were the demographic that so ardently embraced Commissar
Bernie Sanders. In the past, the ambition to earn financial independence and be
one’s own boss motivated entrepreneurs, but today’s millennials need mentors to
hold their hands and the structure of fellowships. To that end, Andrew Yang
created Venture for America (VFA) to place college graduates in startup
ventures for boots on the ground capitalism experience, but the documented
results vary drastically in Cynthia Wade & Cheryl Miller Houser’s Generation Startup (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
about VFA startup apprenticeships, Generation
is just as much a promotional film for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. All
of the featured startups are located in the former Motor City, where they are helping
to power its comeback, at least according to Wade & Houser’s narrative. Of
course, the volume of abandoned houses bought sight unseen through repossession
auctions helps drive the initial business of Castle, a remote property management
startup co-founded by Max Nussenbaum. Castle shares office space with Brian
Rudolph’s Banza, a gluten-free chickpea pasta company, but the actual
manufacturing happens in a small plant north of the city. Details, details.
give credit where credit is due, Nussenbaum and Rudolph have legitimately inspiring
success stories to tell. However, Generation’s
most compelling POV figure is unquestionably Labib Rahman, the VFA fellow placed
at tech startup Mason. Expecting his Muslim parents will disown him when they
learn he is no longer religious, Rahman feels intense pressure to succeed while
they are still on speaking terms, but his experiences at Mason are decidedly mixed.
Wade & Houser also check in with Kate Catlin at tech startup Detroit Labs,
but apparently what they do is so boring she mostly spends her time organizing
Women Rising, an organization to promote woman-to-woman mentoring in the
technology sector, which seems to practice empowerment through cocktail
parties. The filmmakers spend more time with Dextina Booker, an associate with
a private grant development agency, but she can never discuss any of her work
due to confidentiality agreements, so mainly she just bikes around taking stock
of the new and improved Detroit.
Generation Startup will make you pine
for the glory days of the Silicon Cowboys
who founded Compaq computers. They revolutionized the personal computer
industry without the aid of mentors or fellows. As well-intentioned as VFA is,
the very need for it suggests we have lost our way as a country. Despite the interesting
case studies of Castle and Banza, Generation
fails dreadfully in its attempts to reassure viewers regarding Millennial
entrepreneurship and Detroit’s vaunted rebound. Tellingly, it never broaches
subjects like the impact of taxation and closed union shops on embryonic
startups. The promotional tone of the film does not do it any favors either.
Viewers looking to learn more about the
transformative power of startup capital will be far better served by James
& Maureen Castle Tusty’s internationally focused Economic Freedom in Action. Mostly disappointing and largely un-self-aware,
Generation Startup opens this Friday
(9/23) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Detroit, Documentary