Latin America — The Youth Advantage

Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder closed his now-famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University with the simple words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

To me, the two words hungry and foolish point to a single attribute: YOUTH!  Today’s blog reviews demographic trends in the Americas and argues that being both hungry and foolish, in addition to being important requisites for innovation, are inherent among youth.  Latin America, which on average is a decade younger than North America, presents a significant opportunity for innovation in the coming decades.

There is no question that younger generations tend to be “hungrier” than older generations. Youth do not know their limits and if they have been told, they want to test them and make those limits their own. Their consumption aspirations are vast and their patience is limited. Younger generations also tend to be more “foolish” than older generations. In this context it means lack of appreciation of what it has not worked before, the rejection of the status quo and heavily discounting the words of “wisdom” of those with “gray hair” or “no hair.” Steve Jobs underscored this sentiment when he reminded his young audience at Stanford to not be “trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking,” but to instead have the “courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs had it right.  Staying both hungry and foolish are important requirements to feed a creative mind, the kind of mind that can innovate and launch a disruptive venture. In this strict sense, Latin America is privileged, since it holds 70% of those under the age of 30 in the Western Hemisphere and an average age 10 years younger than in North America.

2012 Mid-Year Population+


Median Age

<30 Years Old

North America



140M (30%)

Latin America



320M (70%)

Americas Total



460M (100%)

+ US Census Bureau

Many in Silicon Valley are tripping over themselves to take position in the 1+B markets of China and India. Important as they are, the Americas constitute a 1B market, which is closer to those in China and India in every dimension. Not only geographically, but cultural/linguistic, economically and socially, not to mention the geopolitical importance for North America in the global locus of power.

The Latin America youth advantage is represented by the fact that over 53% of its citizens are under 30 years old. However, they could remain young and poor, since the two traditional sectors of the economy (public sector and the established corporations) will be unable to create the jobs in quality and quantity as required. This will cause tectonic shifts of epic proportions fueled by their consumption aspirations which are higher than ever, leading to a world more unstable, unsustainable and increasingly unequal. This scenario is very bleak.

Hungry and foolish youth will fuel innovation with their unique creative forces and unleash the entrepreneurial passion to create world class new ventures able to scale globally, leveraging the natural resources and unique characteristics each home country ecosystem. Latin America is in a privileged demographic position to participate in this growth.  Is Silicon Valley paying attention?

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post — Carlos B.

About Carlos S. Baradello

Investor, thought leader, university professor, and advisor in areas of corporate innovation, born global entrepreneurship and venture capital investing.
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3 Responses to Latin America — The Youth Advantage

  1. larojas says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    (I think that the “< 30 years" column has the values reversed between North and Latin America)

  2. Pingback: The Challenged U.S. Middle Class: An Opportunity for Latin America’s Youth? | Carlos Baradello

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