There is a wide belief that in order to be an entrepreneur and a start-up founder that you also need youth on your side.
When you think about recent entrepreneurs, people such as Mark Zuckerberg or the late Steve Jobs, who started companies in their early 20s, immediately spring to mind, and it is true that there are many high-profile young entrepreneurs, especially in the tech sector, who are hugely successful.
However, many recent reports also show that the average age of a successful start-up founder is 45 – debunking the myth that to be successful, you also need to be young. You only need to look at the likes of Ariana Huffington of the hugely successful Huffington post or Robert Noyce of Intel to see that there are exceptionally successful middle-aged entrepreneurs in the business world.
The best representation of this that I found during my research for this topic was in this graph from Economica.Org.
This graph represents the highest growth and highest performing start-ups across all industry sectors and articulates that the best performing were founded by people who were in their 40s. That’s not to say that you can’t be successful when you are younger; you absolutely can, but having age on your side definitely helps.
The older you are, the more experience you have
With age comes experience – as the old saying goes – “we’ve been around the block a few times”, and when it comes to making a start-up successful, experience definitely helps. Experience will help you to make both strategic and tactical short-term decisions as you will know what works and what doesn’t, whether it is a people, product or finance decision. Many middle-aged entrepreneurs can take the learnings of previous career and leadership experience and apply them successfully, which helps to embed the strategy and ensure that the start-up has longevity.
When it comes to looking for investors, there is also a common misnomer that venture capitalists will always invest in youth. This can be the case, but again, many VCs also look to the older founders. Investment can often feel like a roll of the dice, so it counts to ensure that the investment is as safe as possible, and sometimes those hands are older and wiser. As an older start-up founder, you may also have more contacts and more access to your own finances that can be used to grow your business, and it demonstrates that you have confidence in your business plan and growth.
Age is just a number
Ultimately, don’t read this blog and think that you are too young or too old to be a successful founder. Age is only a number at the end of the day. Yes, the statistics give us an insight, but what they don’t tell us is how many founders also surround themselves with diverse teams of people of many ages who help to drive the success forwards. They are ambitious people with a drive and a plan to succeed and thrive, and that ambition doesn’t grow with age; it is hard-wired as one of your personal attributes.
If you have a great idea, don’t wait to be at the optimum age to make it a success; just do it!
Sue Rees is an expert C-Suite executive search specialist with over 25 years of experience in Pharma, Biotech, Lifesciences etc.