How are Tech Entrepreneurs and Foster Kids Alike?

November 8th, 2010
MMM Tech Perspectives


I recently spent an inspirational weekend with 50 foster children and fellow adult leaders in an educational and eye-opening series of seminars, competitions and lectures on life lessons. This inspirational event was led by a good friend who has been a mentor to foster children for decades.

In the course of the weekend, my fellow “coaches” and I developed a strong bond with our kids – – all of whom were teenagers living in foster homes. The teens had earned the right to attend this weekend event of fun, games, education, fellowship and friendship.

My “crew” included nine teenage young men and fellow coaches involved in competitive team activities around topics including making a budget, building friendships, creating a rap song around healthy living, sex education, and physical fitness.

My conclusion after the weekend: foster kids are much like budding entrepreneurs.

1. Living on a Budget – Entrepreneurs and foster kids learn quickly the importance of building a realistic budget and living within it. For example, one of our teams formulated a bare bones budget (for example, $50/week for food). When that’s all you have, you learn to live within the limits of your cash.

2. Staying Alive – Survivability is the name of the game for many entrepreneurs and foster kids. Their decisions are often based on limited resources and the need to use them wisely.

3. Big Dreams – Both the entrepreneur and foster child should have big dreams. My foster “crew” had ambitions – – to be an NFL football player, video game designer, real estate executive.

4. Big Goals/Small Steps – During the weekend, we emphasized the importance of setting lofty goals and taking realistic steps to accomplish them. Too often, a goal may be achievable but the steps taken to accomplish it need to be subdivided into bite-sized pieces.

5. Create Motivation Through Accomplishment – Achieving the smaller goals is important to motivate the entrepreneur and young person to move to the next level. For the entrepreneur, the small goal may be releasing the first beta of a product. For the foster child, the goal may be completing an extra thirty minutes of dedicated homework time. In either case, accomplishing the task leads to greater motivation to achieve the overall goal.

6. Don’t Make the Big Mistake – For entrepreneurs, the big mistake may be running out of money before additional capital is available. For the foster teen, it could be getting in trouble with the law by associating with the wrong friends. In either case, understanding the serious consequences of a big mistake is important to avoiding them.

7. Find a Mentor and Listen – Our weekend concentrated on providing mentorship to a group of good kids and imparting constructive values. An experienced outside board member or venture capitalist can provide similar guidance to the entrepreneur.

8. Have Open and Honest Dialogue – Our discussions with the kids were some of the most open and honest conversations one can have about important topics – – staying out of trouble, hygiene, avoiding the wrong friends, etc. The issues were presented openly and honestly – – with direct answers (there was no equivocation). Similarly, advisors and mentors for entrepreneurs should be direct in their communication. Avoiding surprises is important for both entrepreneurs and foster teens – – and it can mean the difference between success and failure in both areas.

This information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice; see disclaimer at Contact John Yates for more information at


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