Generation Z [1], immersed in their companies, create sparks and often attract criticism for their unfaithfulness and opposition to the rules of salaried companies. We should take a benign view of this generation: they are expressing their desire to find meaning in work. They are committed and want to act! What is my added value within a collective? What impact does my work have?   How can I reconcile my work with my convictions?


These are the big questions for which entrepreneurship has the answers. To satisfy the wish to be of practical usefulness, the path of entrepreneurship would appear to be an appropriate solution for the employment of the new generations.


This 24 November, VentureLab, the first French language incubator for Student Entrepreneurs, celebrates its third birthday. By knocking at its door, 300 students or young graduates have shown their desire to take their future into their own hands. In Liege, but also in Paris, London or Tallinn, we observe real enthusiasm on the part of young people for entrepreneurship, with the emergence of a trend in society. Why is this?


At the outset, their motivation is always much the same: “I want to be my own boss” and “be fulfilled”. This works more or less well, depending on their availability and the team skills. However, above all, they are all driven by the basic quest for meaning.

[1] Young people born in the 1990s.

From what tomorrow’s entrepreneurs have said and from conversations with them, I perceive five directions in their quest for meaning.


  1. Being an entrepreneur is a profession, but it also requires extra skills that must be acquired in order to meet present and future market demands (the capacity to make decisions, resilience, creativity, knowing how to pick the right people etc.). In a world dominated by the rapid obsolescence of knowledge and skills, the desire to be an entrepreneur can be explained by a need to learn skills through action. Student entrepreneurs seek practice rather than an indelible stamp representing a field of expertise. They construct their flexibility: entrepreneurship involves learning.
  2. Students do not expect companies to do them the honor of a job; rather, they honor the market by making available their talents and skills. Through entrepreneurship, creative students have been able to build up partnerships that offer medium and large enterprises innovative solutions to their challenges and needs for diversification. Companies such as Decathlon have understood this and establish partnerships with incubators in order to benefit from the ideas and skills of tomorrow’s players.
  3. By means of unattainable models and ambitious objectives, society pushes us to use our egos and our competitive spirit to go beyond the professional limits established by others. All that our professional mask can do is to show we are effective and active. Entrepreneurship allows the new generations to become fully involved in a project by using another part of themselves, namely, self-governance, their intuitions, their emotional intelligence and their deep aspirations. Confronted with their real potential and their limits, they achieve real fulfilment.
  4. To be an effective manager, you must be able to stop, take one step back and observe your company from another angle. Entrepreneurship is not just action: it also involves personal fulfilment, which is the true engine driving the performance of the project. It has meaning because it invites the entrepreneur to adjust and become the best version of himself.
  5. The world is not so much in crisis as in mutation. We are at the dawn of a new era. All the major models (whether they be economic, social, environmental or other) that have underpinned the idea of our companies have to be reinvented. These dispossessed heirs[1] have the mission to imagine and create the new models. Entrepreneurship is a real vector of initiative for change.


50% of today’s population is under thirty years of age; their vocational choices are guided by meaning and entrepreneurship multiplies meaning by a factor of five, so I consider it is reasonable to believe that it is a real way forward towards economic and human fulfilment for society.


[1] Expression taken from Kofi Annan.

Sophie Joris, Directrice du VentureLab


Le troisième Sommet de l’Étudiant Entrepreneur