As PayPal (NASDAQ: EBAY ) founder Elon Musk sat on a discussion panel at this year's Web Summit in Dublin alongside Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, he remarked on the future for young entrepreneurs and tech start-ups, the potential CEOs and the giant companies of tomorrow. Musk's essential question was how to nurture growth.
Musk, now CEO and CTO of space transport company SpaceX and CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) , urged the next generation of entrepreneurs and engineers to take the plunge, but their governments needed to help them out. He was talking specifically about the education of engineers in Ireland, but his comments are relevant around the globe.
University courses for engineers are vital, he explained, for grooming and encouraging the talent of the future. His comments were shadowed by Ireland's well documented economic woes, high rates of unemployment, and the mass emigration of young people from the country. The brain drain shows no signs of stopping soon.
"Maybe engineering could be tuition-free or something like that. But then tie it to they've got to stay in Ireland – they can't just bail," said Musk, designing a plan to cultivate the tech minds of the future but keeping them at home. "It's like, free engineering tuition but you've got to hang out and create your company here. I think that kind of thing would be effective in creating technology companies."
Musk's comments came just a few weeks before Twitter (NYSE: TWTR ) went public at a $25 billion worth. Remember that once upon a time guys like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey or even Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg were just techy kids too. It proves that Musk's advice for nurturing tech minds shouldn't be taken lightly.
Is technology the serum to economic woe?
For example, several years ago, Ireland's specialty was property and it was hugely responsible for the great economic boom period in the country, but like all bubbles it burst and the economy and banking sector came to a halt. Vital lessons needed to be learned after the property crisis in order to go forward and Ireland has seemingly found something in technology companies in the hunt for investment and ultimately employment, so more young people are being encouraged to enter the tech and engineer fields in university.
Ireland is just an example of one country that has been through such economic hardships over the last five years, much like the rest of the world and there may be important lessons of cautiousness to take away from the example of property in Ireland but apply it to technology in a global sense, because if there's one thing technology companies have done, it's make the world smaller. Noted Irish economist David McWilliams has warned strongly on the issue of investing prematurely in tech companies, lending a well-known and well-respected economist's voice to the proceedings.
Young entrepreneurs need support
Musk wasn't finished though. Not only did he suggest free tuition for engineers to harvest our tech future but went on to state that once someone has taken the plunge to start their own company, there needs to be supports in place to help start-ups. He made specific mention of regulations in taxation and government support and how young companies need the leg-up when coming face to face with larger companies that have been established and have a reputation, in order to give them a fighting chance.
"When a new company is formed you are going up against established companies with credibility and it's incredibly important that companies are nourished through that stage," he said. "It's like a sapling growing in a giant redwood forest. You have these huge companies, if you don't give them a little bit of sunlight and nutrition, it's game over."
Elon Musk's advice for nurturing the engineers and tech companies of the future are certainly interesting but realistically, can they be implemented?