Meet the Startup Kid. The Startup Kid is the Organization Kid that speed-reads “The Organization Kid” — Organization Kid 2.0, if you will.
The Startup Kid pursues his life with a kind of intellectual, deliberate interest, somehow emotionally detached even as he runs charity 5Ks and takes pottery. You get the feeling that somewhere there’s a list where he needs to cross off: “Enjoy various athletic and artistic pursuits” and “Achieve minimum viable soul.”
The Startup Kid’s heroes are Steve Jobs, Gandhi and the Instagram guys. The Startup Kid, like the Organization Kid, wants to be in the top one percent, but a .01 percent implementer, or a .01 percent-design thinker or a .01 percent-paradigm shifter. His brain seems to have, by and large, become a whiteboard covered in graphs going upwards, and everything and everyone has their own color-coded post-it. Startup Kids are creative and therefore don’t need the more obvious gold stickers of their Wall Street or consultancy counterparts, but don’t think they’re not ambitious. By striving for the nebulous, the Startup Kid aims to be ubiquitous; he doesn’t want to be the Man — he wants to be the System, the Platform, the context for everything his smaller-minded classmates will do.
The Startup Kid believes in data and metrics. Nothing is unquantifiable, and at the very least there’s some data visualization software for it. Self-discovery? There’s an app for that. Empathy? It can be learned in a workshop. His view of history is profoundly teleological, not that he thinks much of history. The Startup Kid doesn’t have enough time for history. The Startup Kid feeds history, national flavor, cultural quirks, into the same lean-mean-winning-machine as whimsy, romance, spontaneity, gesture, immaturity, joy, personal development — these are sacrificed for ambition presented so wholesomely we often fail to appreciate its ferocity.
This certain kind of ambition is, I believe, currently being expressed in the ASSU Executive. This is not to say The Startup Kid is a real person or that he is part of the ASSU — but the attitude is real, and present.
The Project Management and Implementation team aims to make the ASSU “an omnipresent, ultra-efficient powerhouse,” according to its official “blueprint.” Everyone from the Health and Wellness team to the Asian and Pacific Islander community team wants to use or build a new kind of app, as stated in their blueprints. The Food team is holding a hackathon. The Co-Chairs of Entrepreneurship want to identify qualifying student entrepreneurs and treat them like athletes — giving them “excused absences when travelling to business-related events,” as quoted in the Chair of Entrepreneurship “E 2.0” outline.
Design thinking is given its own chair and seems to be a slice of everyone’s plan, as does hyper-aggressive marketing (question: does good government need to be marketed?). Several teams mention using the ASSU’s email capabilities to send out mass event promotions. The ASSU hopes to establish a strategy that sends “targeted” emails to, say, “Nebraskan athletes,” according to the Project Management and Implementation blueprint.
But this is not just about the sanctity of my inbox. This is about the fact that in response to complaints about the length of his emails, the VP created the position Director of Internal Review, according to Co-Chair of Entrepreneurship Dan Thompson in a previous interview with The Daily. This sounds to me like creating a sound-pollution task force because your neighbor asked you to use headphones.
But what bothers me most about the ASSU is the vagueness of everything it wants to accomplish. I know “vagueness” doesn’t sound very nefarious, but the more vague the goal, the fewer limits an organization has upon it. Take the war on poverty for instance — never going to end, so can justify anything. Might not the ASSU declare a war on apathy? Loneliness? Non-entrepreneurialism?
Entrepreneurship is a word so vague that it alternates between being totally meaningless and the meaning of life. It encompasses an activity, a methodology, a mindset and even a lifestyle — wide-ranging in the problems it can solve and, for many, completely absorbing. But it’s worth remembering that this world of whiteboards, sticky notes, jeans and blazers, arrogant hashtags, crowdsourced-design-thinking-in-Ikea-chairs-of-scalable-minimum-fundable-awesome 2.0 projects is very, very small and very, very specific. We need perspective and humility.
You can’t really make mistakes living off of a to-do list. You can’t really get your hands dirty experiencing life through a computer screen. You cannot hack life. You cannot conjure community. And you can’t fake selflessness.
TIFFANY LI ’13