27,000 directors aged 21 or under in the UK

The app economy is helping to create a generation of young CEOs


With National Apprenticeship Week having just passed and the launch of the Ignite Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship from Peter Jones and co, it’s encouraging to see the government and big name entrepreneurs taking steps to tackle the problem of youth unemployment.

Sadly, in the midst of it all, our youngsters are getting stick for a supposed lack of work ethic or drive to secure the jobs that are available.  Nonetheless, their free reign and dominance in tech is unmatched and their success in this territory may well spill over into other areas.

Wilkins Kennedy, the accountancy firm, agrees. It claims that the success of young people in fast-growth sectors like app design is acting as a catalyst for under-21s to open businesses in all sectors of the economy. The growth of the app economy is helping to create an entrepreneurial generation in the UK, with 27,000 people aged 21 or under now listed as directors of limited companies.

Whilst one may look at Mark Zuckerberg as the archetypal young entrepreneur, the newest player in the tech game is Wimbledon-born Nick D’Aloisio who, at 17, sold Summly, the news aggregator app he designed, to Yahoo for more than £20m last year. Perhaps it was a lucky strike but it certainly highlights the opportunities available to young Brits in the app economy.

The Wilkins Kennedy report also points out that youth unemployment may be playing a part as more underlings have turned to starting their own businesses in light of slim job prospects. Around 18% of those aged 18-24 out of work at the start of 2014 created a start-up, compared with approximately 12% at the start of 2008, prior to the recession.

Whilst the number of directors born between 1961-1980 still outnumbers those born between 1981-1995 by four to one, the latter’s dominance in the app space cannot be denied with the majority of modern tech start-ups founded by someone from the younger generation.

“There are huge sums of money out there for people who create world-class apps, and the UK’s young entrepreneurs have benefitted from the sector,” says Adam Anstey, partner at Wilkins Kennedy. “Sometimes, all you need is ability, ambition and a computer to strike it rich in the app economy. That inspires young entrepreneurs to give it a go in other sectors as well.” 

Dara Jegede
Dara Jegede

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