Older people possess something younger people lack namely experience, expertise, judgement and performance, which is why older people who create new businesses have a better rate of success. Start-ups are not just for bright young things – age brings indispensable wisdom to new businesses. When it comes to launching a business, what a person lack in youthful energy comes back multiplied in youthful experience and just because someone finds success later than his or her peers doesn’t make them less successful overall. Some examples of late business starters include Reid hoffman, who started the ultra-popular career networking site LinkedIn when he was 36; Sam Walton started Wal-mart when he was 44; and Campbell started Campbell soup when he was 52.
Entrepreneurs are usually portrayed as individuals in their early 20s in movies, with or without college degrees. This stereotype may appeal to our interest in a narrative where geeks take over the world, but Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg-inspired vision is absolutely only a part of the entrepreneurship story. People place perhaps too high a value on being young when discussing creativity and ideas generation. However, not enough importance has been placed on the value of experience, hindsight, and a developed skilled set, which is something the older entrepreneur has on their side. Many entrepreneurs don’t even think about starting their own business until they are in their 30s, 40s and even 50s, after years of work experience.
For anyone trying to find a career in entrepreneurship, it’s never too early nor too late to start a business. We have heard of 20+ entrepreneurs such as the aforementioned Mark Zuckerberg, 20, and Tumblr’s David Karp, 21. Both were attending college when they started their careers as entrepreneurs. There were also those who were just starting to build their respective careers when they founded their own ventures. For example Amancio Ortega was a 30-year-old shirt shop helper when he built the fashion retailer company Zara. Pandora, TechCrunch, Twitter, WhatsApp and Wikipedia were all started when their creators were 35 years old. Nicklas Zennstromm created Skype when he was 37. There were also others who were already long-time entrepreneurs before they made it big in entrepreneurship. Robert Noyce and Mark Pincus were both 41 when they started their respective ventures Intel and Zynga while Craig Newmark started CraigList at 41. There were also mid-life entrepreneurs who founded their own enterprises in their middle age. Ray Krow launched McDonald’s when he was 52 years old while John Pemberton invented coca-cola when he was 55. Perhaps the most famous of all who started late as an entrepreneur is Harland Sanders, who used part of his retirement compensation to set-up KFC at 65. Entrepreneurship knows no age. Anyone can become an entrepreneur whether you are a student, a worker, a professional who has just started a career or a retiree.
Here are the most common arguments in favour of young entrepreneurs:
- Younger Entrepreneurs Have Better Ideas
Did the young entrepreneurs have their youth to thank for their insights? The honest answer is, “Sort of.” Great ideas can come from anyone who truly understands a market and its customers’ needs. The young entrepreneurs all applied their talents in the application of emerging technology to consumer markets, where youth can indeed help. Still, regardless of your age or background, if you examine a market critically, you can develop insights into what customers in that market truly need.
- Younger Entrepreneurs Don’t Know ‘What Can’t Be Done’
Is inexperience an advantage? Younger entrepreneurs often don’t have the disadvantage of having to outgrow too-small exceptions. But they also don’t have as many experiences of living through dynamic change, which can inspire older entrepreneurs to contemplate with awe what comes next. Believing in a Quixotic idea is kind of romantic – until it actually fails. We’d rather see entrepreneurs who are naturally inclined to test, test, test good ideas and as little initial investment, whether they’re likely to succeed or not.
- Younger Entrepreneurs Have Greater Focus
It is relatively easy for younger entrepreneurs to care about only one thing (your new venture) with no other major commitments. How long can that last though when commitments start to pile up.
- Younger Entrepreneurs Are More Nimble
The ability to quickly learn and pivot is a critical entrepreneurial skill. But do younger entrepreneurs truly come by it more easily? Maybe. Some older people can become set in their ways and not all of them.
- Younger Entrepreneurs Have Lower Opportunity Cost
This might in fact be true. For example a budding young entrepreneur hasn’t established him/herself in a career, and probably doesn’t carry a lot of financial overhead. But the truth is low overhead is a good thing regardless of your age. Save some money, don’t indulge on too many unnecessary expenses. Happiness in life comes from relationships, doing something meaningful and other mostly intangible things. Whatever your age, avoid the trap (and expense) of consumerism.
On the other hand: Famous entrepreneurs like Harlan Sanders, Sam Walton, Don Fisher etc. excelled in their old age. What did they all have in common aside their relatively old ages? They built great, lasting companies after years of experience in their industries. It is safe to say anyone, young or old, who can develop a unique insight has a shot at building an amazing new venture.
In conclusion, no matter what your age, there is no substitute for a brilliant idea. What you must understand is that people invest in people, and although businesses can be boosted by the interpersonal skills of the CEO, no business will really lift off if the idea isn’t worth backing. Passion, determination, hard work and a great concept – these are the things we should invest in. After all, age is just a number.