At what age should I start my business?
Thursday, May 10, 2018
What's the ideal age to start a business?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but recent research suggests that 40 may be the magic number.
Despite media speculation about the entrepreneurial spirit of the younger generation, the average age of an entrepreneur in the UK is 47 (46 for men and 48 for women). US research puts the figure a little lower, saying 40 is the average age to start your first business.
This makes sense. For many, being a twenty-something is characterized by career uncertainty and debt, while a lack of experience working for other companies could make starting your own a risky business.
Your 30s is the era of children and mortgages: a combined responsibility that could rule out taking a leap into the unknown.
Your 40s, on the other hand, represents an attractive combination of financial security and business experience.
Those entrepreneurs were 35, 35, 37, 42, and 42, respectively, when they founded those companies.
I’ve seen a study that says a business with a founder aged 39 is the most likely to succeed. And according to the Kaufman Foundation the average and median age of US-born tech founders was 39, and twice as many were older than 50 as were younger than 25.
There are outliers, and these outliers seem to get most of the attention - Zuckerberg, Spiegel, Gates, etc… These guys came up with original ideas probably because of their lack of conditioning in the work place, and they were damn smart guys. And these outliers have really distorted everyone’s perception of founders’ ages, mine included up to a few months ago.
Now at LaunchPad I’ve been working with entrepreneurs aged 20 to 45. My initial plan was to hire young kids, give them equity, they do 80% of the work, I give direction, money and support.
I wasn’t that keen on working with the guys in their 40’s - not enough energy, not big enough dreamers - but I kind of went along with them.
Here’s a picture of me with one of my ‘middle-aged’ co-founders! Since this photo was taken a year ago, Clay has gone nuts on the exercise and is in amazing shape. Anyway!
I learned some lessons. The tech startups with the 40+ year old founders have done way better than the ones with the guys in their 20’s (we have none in their 30’s), with one exception. It's not only that the startups performed better, but I could see the older guys knew what they were doing, they managed better, executed better.
The guys in their 20’s need a lot of hand-holding - and that's fine - they'll gain experience and get there one day.
Pre-Zuckerberg, everything I've just said was common sense. It still is.
In fact in one startup we had 3 different founders try it out, all in their 20’s. All of them couldn’t make it happen - they all gave up on the idea.
I was convinced the idea should have worked. Two months ago a 40 year old guy decides he’d give it a go. Within 2 weeks we’re profitable, we have 17 staff 7 weeks after launch, and I see this as a US$20m+ business within 5 years. I could see how this older guy could manage so much better - not surprising given he has plenty of management experience.
If you’re in your late 30’s to late 50’s don’t let age put you off even slightly - you’re probably in your prime and you can’t waste it.
And if you’re in your 20’s and 30’s go for it too - you have a lot more upside from a successful venture.
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