Bill Gordon

Faculty @ School of Visual Arts - NYC

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Your Next 40 - if you are 50+

A new emphasis on YourNext40 - finally a real world offer.

This offer was made in the summer of 2014. We didn't get enough students for me to offer the class I had contemplated at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Since then I have moved to Portland, Oregon where I am actively thinking about launching a website to accomplish the original goal or serving the 50Plus demographic in learning about entrepreneurship. The YourNext40 links no longer take you to the site I had developed for Seth Godins Skillshare class. It takes you to my website www.wgordon3.com

Join me at School of Visual Arts in NYC this summer for a new course I will be teaching. Happy to talk about an online version for folks not in the NYC area.

Old Explanation - when I first started contemplating this project:

I am a Baby Boomer who has been a serial entrepreneur but taking time out to teach entrepreneurship over the past 2 years. I started with Lean Launch Ventures an accelerator program run for the state of Connecticut. Together a partner and I used a 12 week version of a leading Lean Startup curriculum based on  The Startup Owners Manual and Business Model Generation to accelerate the efforts of a hand picked group of entrepreneurs. Our experiment, one of many backed by the state, was to train teams chosen from a large pool of applicants and then finance them with state funds. We trained 6 teams and then funded 5 that we are still advising since they "graduated" in June 2013. Entrpreneurship is not a slam dunk. The jury is still out as to how many jobs their efforts will create for the state.

Currently I am teaching at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC where the fall semester was devoted to the Lean Startup method. My students at SVA are Masters of Fine Art students earning a degree in Design for Social Innovation. We just started the second semester of the combined entrepreneurship and collaborative leadership course. Twenty students divided themselves up into 6 teams in the fall semester and are still working to validate business models each with a distinct social component. At the moment it looks like 3 of the 6 startups will extend into the real world beyond graduation in May. 

It has been very gratifying to lead both of these efforts where majority of my students are millenials with lots of great energy, ideas and true passion. I have learned at least as much as they have. However as I have been teaching them I have been thinking a lot about my own generation, the target of my project Your Next 40. So many of my fellow 80 million Baby Boomers, including myself, are looking at our lives, after 40 years of working, realizing we could easily have 40 more years on earth. The goal is often not "retirement" as our parents or grandparents defined it. For us it is about staying engaged and productive which is why for starters a lot of us are freelancing. Looking deeper into the numbers, the Kaufmann Foundation has discovered the Baby Boomers in the 55 to 64 age bracket are currently trying to build more startups that we intend to scale than any of the other adult generations in the US today. It's not the kids....it is us!

In light of the Kaufmann numbers the question "should I be an Entrepreneur or a Freelancer" is timely. My own observation is that there is a category in between the freelancer, working for a paycheck, and the entrepreneur trying to create value beyond oneself by scaling. The $100 Startup trend that Chris Guiillebeau has profiled in his book entitled $100 Startup or the Free Range Human movement that Marianne Cantwell has catalyzed with her blog and book Be a Free Range Human is about "microentrepreneurs" who tend to use what I see as a hybrid model. Unlike the entrepreneur they don't want to take significant financial risk so they begin by charging for some of their time while working hard to create other income streams. They have a goal of earning money while they sleep and are leveraging the web in various ways to accomplish it. What is most interesting to me is that many use the term "lifestyle" business or "mom and pop" to describe many microentrepreneurial efforts which implies that they can't scale very much because they are highly localized. It is the power of the web that changes that dramatically because it gives any of us access to the global marketplace to sell our ideas and talents.

Your Next 40 is my attempt to create a community to serve the needs of my generation by identifying or creating the best tools to suppport our efforts to generate new income streams, be they based on freelancing hours or products like Seth's training program on Skillshare or both. In many ways it is solving my own problem - the best place to start with any startup. I think I know what my generation needs but Your Next 40 is going to be a tool in my search for a business model that works. I appreciate you comments so far and will be anxious to hear more.

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