Billionaire to students: 'Don't be a victim'

Billionaire investor and Abington High grad Stephen Schwarzman, cofounder and boss of the $200 billion-plus Blackstone Group, which this week says it'll spend $3 million to help Penn, Temple and U of the Sciences kids learn about starting their own businesses, says, despite the weak economy, it's actually easier, not harder, to start a business these days. 

To be sure,"we are looking at a periodf slow economic growth, which we've had since 2008. as society deleverages. That creates fewer jobs than any other recovery," he told me.

And yet: "One of the major trends is, you don't need a lot of money to start software companies. People of the age when you're in college these days, everybody is completely literate in digital technology. It's a dramatic change from 20 or 30 years ago.

"So you can't miss the Googles and the Facebooks and the Spanxes and the other companies that started with little capital," he added. "There are huge upsides when you win.

"I know this is an old example; but the Blackberry created movable offices. It's like an office in one hand. Once people experience that, it builds on itself. It creates more of an entrepreneurial spirit."

And yet, admits Schwarzman, who's been a target of labor and Occupy protesters, a lot of young Americans "really feel alienated by the system not working with them." That's why he's pushing entrepreneurship:"If you're an entrepreneur and it doesn't work, it's your fault. If it works, only the marketplace tells you what to do. There's more of a concept of self-reliance." Which he's trying to revive in an America that sometimes seems to demand solutions from beyond.

Blackstone and its affiliates are advising opportunistic troubled-company investors like Michael Forman's Franklin Square junk-bond funds. "There's opportunities to do investments with energy, in the commeical real estate area. Things don't have to be dark just because there is economic uncertainty. You don't have to be a victim.

"Not everyone is suited to find opportunity. But for people who are, there is always a way to create an exconomic proposition that works for you, as well as your customeres." 

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