A popular myth that most of you probably believe is that startups are only for the younger generations. In fact, I see more and more evidence that new entrepreneurs are coming from the older age groups (age 45-64), and success rates move up with age. Is it possible that age and experience are more of an advantage in this business than young passion and fearlessness?
Based on my own years of experience in big businesses, as well as startups, this is no surprise to me. I’ve long had my own views about why this is happening, and they were supported by what I found in a new book, “Ageless Startup,” written by a fellow successful entrepreneur and senior, Rick Terrien. We summarize the advantages of older entrepreneurs along the following lines:
Think life-changing, not lifestyle entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is indeed a lifestyle, implying for the young an ability to follow your own dream, and control your own destiny. More importantly, I believe that it should mean making a better life for others, through more jobs, technology innovation, or improving the environment.
Over time, those of us who have grown up in business have a better idea of what really counts and what really is life-changing, both from a personal perspective as well as a business perspective. We are more prepared to focus on life-changing entrepreneurship.
Find and see the opportunities hidden in plain sight. As an angel investor, I often hear from young entrepreneurs who have invented a shiny solution, without really focusing first on the need or the opportunity. Time and experience in business teaches you to listen for potential customers, and carefully evaluate the real business potential.
For example, most professional services and consulting startups today are led by more experienced professionals who worked in business for many years before they decided to strike out on their own with their own brand of solution to a commonly seen requirement.
Time to think about and develop your purpose and “why.” People are living longer today, and find they are only getting started after 30 years of experience. They are seriously looking for opportunities to grow personally and professionally, and leave their mark on the world. They can more clearly see what is important to them and to others.
Paul Tasner, a celebrated Purpose Prize winner, started his new business at the age of 66. In a recent TED Talk, he summed up this perspective by saying, “I am doing the most rewarding and meaningful work of my life right now.” Making money is not his passion.
You can look back so than you can lead going forward. Being able to look backward in your experience is an advantage in avoiding common mistakes, as well as recognizing a recurring but unsatisfied need in the marketplace. It takes time to build networks, know-how, and the leadership skills to chart a successful path and mobilize others around you.
You don’t need permission from anyone, and you are less dependent on coaching and mentoring from the rare skilled and available people that most smart young founders depend upon. You also know when to say no, and don’t try to solve every problem.
Use your ability to bootstrap and set a sustainable base. You as a second career entrepreneur are more likely to bootstrap, meaning able to pay strict attention to sustainable cash flow and utilizing your own capital at the outset, thus avoiding the pressures of finding and managing external funding.
You recognize that new businesses are a journey with continuous challenges, so you need to focus on building a sustainable foundation early, with true-to-you values, and an achievable set of goals. Solutions will become obvious, and you can execute effectively.
Play to the fastest growing customer segment you know. Globally, the population aged 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups. According to projections, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65 (16%), up from one in 11 in 2019 (9%). Nothing gives you insight into customer needs like being in the segment with them.
Terrien and I both believe that now is the renaissance age for entrepreneurship, and it’s just beginning. Conventional models are falling by the wayside. It’s time now to start thinking about how you will make a smooth transition from working in a business to working on your business.
You are allowed to start small and go slowly, but it pays to start smart. Don’t hesitate to capitalize on your growing advantages.
*** First published on Inc.com on 06/08/2020 ***