How Millennials are changing corporate culture

Many young professionals today opt for a new road of success: entrepreneurship

By: Tom DiNardo, Staff Writer

Turning the traditional corporate world on its head, young professionals aged 19 to 30 are looking more and more toward entrepreneurship – startup businesses and freelance work – as a viable option for work.

It’s not very hard to see why Millenials are abandoning the traditional working lifestyle. Let’s face it, corporate jobs are rough. You work nine to five in an office cubicle with minimal interaction and a rigid schedule. Startup companies, on the other hand, seem more like a university student center than an office. Think Zoe Barnes’s job at Slugline in the TV series House of Cards (she doesn’t even have a desk!). You’re more likely to see an open concept, a free cafeteria and social interaction than people isolated in cubicles hunched over PCs.

Young professionals today see traditional companies as unaccommodating, stagnant, black holes where you have to spend years working your way up the ladder in order to be heard. Even once you reach the top there is still red tape at every turn.

Today’s youth are deciding to say screw it and forge their own path. That could mean starting a company in their parent’s garage, hopping on to a project already underway, or doing freelance work.

Start me up!

Most students know at least one person involved in a startup. Some people know twenty-somethings who have hit gold with a simple idea that caught on and was sold to a mega-corporation like Google. Possibly they developed the idea for a final project in a computer programming class. Sometimes the idea materializes in the university caf.  Some Millenials decide to put their entrepreneurial aspirations on hold until they graduate. Others don’t even wait until they cross the stage to start their professional career. Either way, Millenials are embracing startups as an attractive alternative to the traditional corporate lifestyle.

Silicon Valley, once the haven of startups in North America, is slowly being challenged by strong Canadian competition, as Ontario has recently become a hub of entrepreneurial activity.

A large contribution is government investment in entrepreneurial activity. The provincial government has invested $3.6 billion dollars in the technology sector, mainly in research and development. The province is also encouraging foreign businesses to set up in the province with their new Startup Visa.

Investors can be lured into the deal as well. They benefit from reduced corporate taxes and the government provides significant tax credits to companies doing innovative work.

[pullquote]Some people know twenty-somethings who have hit gold with a simple idea that caught on and was sold to a mega-corporation like Google.[/pullquote]

Waterloo in particular has seen enormous growth in entrepreneurial activity. Kyleigh Platz is a social media specialist at Communitech, a Waterloo-based company dedicated to supporting tech businesses in the community at all points in their development. She points to the surrounding environment to explain the burgeoning entrepreneurial hub. “With Waterloo, we see that the community is the one that makes the culture,” she says. “You still see the community coming together; it’s not about one individual.” Communitech connects with local startups and universities in order to help the community grow together.

Waterloo is lucky to have a constant influx of young professionals from its local universities, with students graduating in engineering, math and computer science schools. This helps to explain why 500 startups have taken root in Waterloo in 2012, while Ontario as a whole produces 30,000 computer science and engineering graduates every year from its 44 universities.


Freelance is like the left jab to the startup’s right hook to the typical corporate setup. It packs a smaller punch but is still bruising the traditional workplace.

“… Traditional barriers of work are being knocked down,” says Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, a website that connects freelancers with employers.

Freelancers can still work at a “regular” job, unlike those involved with startup businesses. According to a survey by oDesk, many freelancers plan to slowly transition away from “regular” employment and toward full time freelance work in the near future.

Of those freelancers surveyed, 72 percent said they wanted to quit their jobs and 61 percent said they were likely to quit their job within the next two years.

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