Posted by: John Tozzi on July 12, 2011
Our Time, a new nonprofit group trying to expand the reach of Americans under 30 in Washington, is launching a campaign July 13 to encourage people to spend money at companies led by young people.
The Buy Young initiative has enlisted companies such as Rent the Runway and Airbnb to offer discounts to people who join Our Time’s mailing list. The goal is to help young businesses succeed and create more jobs for young people, according to Matthew Segal, the group’s 25-year-old founder. “Young people are key drivers in the economic recovery,” he says. “Let’s get a mass audience of young people to shop and purchase products from these companies.”
The generation born after 1980 is often portrayed as entitled. Segal, who says he was one of the only young people participating in President Obama’s jobs summit at the White House in 2009, wants to highlight Millenials’ contributions to the economy and how much they have at stake in fixing it. About 12.8 percent of workers in their 20s were unemployed in June, compared to 9.2 percent of the total workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Our Time is launching the initiative in Washington with separate events at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on Capitol Hill, and with the White House Business Council. Segal expects about 125 executives who started their businesses before age 30 to attend, including WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and Gilt Groupe co-founder Alexis Maybank.
Founded earlier this year, Our Time has a staff of six and a list of over 300,000 members, Segal says. The organization grew out of a youth voting campaign he started as a student at Kenyon College. Our Time takes a cut from Buy Young deals sold through its site, and Segal hopes that will generate enough income to fund the group’s advocacy.
He thinks getting young entrepreneurs in the same room as policymakers will focus Washington on the role of young workers and entrepreneurs in the economy. In the business world, “everyone values experience and they want you to pretend that you’re much older than you are,” Segal says. “I view inexperience as a key driver of ingenuity and creativity.”