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DYI approach balances students’ passion with a career in challenging world

Founder_introduction_stage_05_webbWhat do you do with an education if there are no jobs? You make your own.

That’s the opinion of nearly a third of the students in the U.S. who face unemployment after graduation, says Michael Baum, an enormously successful tech entrepreneur (he founded Splunk) who is the driving force behind FOUNDER.org.

This is no small segment of society, Baum says, estimating that half of graduates are dealing with unemployment.

But the reality is only a small portion of them try to start a business, he says. What’s stopping them?

“We hear three things,” Baum says. “I’m in debt. I don’t know how to build a company, how to fundraise or build a business plan. And I’m not really sure I have what it takes to be successful.”

Baum is in Stockholm this week to preside over the FOUNDER.org World Founder Forum at KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The event brings together dozens of the FOUNDER.org network’s top student entrepreneur teams for a few days of knowledge sharing and networking. And it culminates in the announcement of 10 winning teams who will take home 100K USD in startup funds.

Youth unemployment was the main concern driving Baum to create FOUNDER.org. The network combines funding with a company building program based on intense challenges, real-world skills development and shared experiences among the most talented young founders around the world. Watching him at the Monday event, you can see how much heĀ loves doing this. And he’s impressed with the energy of the generation that he’s helping. “This is a generation that has been given a lot of things, but they also have very high expectations of themselves. These are people that are quite intense about making the world a better place.”

And they see entrepreneurship as a way to balance their need to make a paycheck and to remaining true to their commitment to a better world, he says. “And they’re faced with doing that in a failing system.”

The pace of change continues to shift faster than anyone can foresee, so entrepreneurship is a tough calling. Baum’s advice: “It’s a tough environment, but it’s also an opportunist environment to work in. Probably the biggest thing you can learn in life is how to adjust to change, how to incorporate change.”

You can follow today’s event on Twitter under the tag, #wff15.

David Callahan

David Callahan is editor for international news and media at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.