I recently heard a University lecturer say “entrepreneurship is a young mans game”. Investors do prefer younger founders. The well-respected startup investor Yossi Vardi: “I generally invests in young entrepreneurs”. The average Y-combinator or Seedcamp winner tends to be in their 20’s. However there is no best age to be an entrepreneur. There are benefits and draw-backs to both young and older founders. Being a successful entrepreneur is derived from the ability to learn, having an inner driver and maintaining the right attitude.
Our web app startup operates from a student/post grad startup incubator. I see alot of young startup entrepreneurs coming through. Most startup founders at the incubator are either young or middle-aged. A recent US report showed that the average age of startup founders is 39! There are benefits and draw backs to both young and old founders:
- Energy – Youth brings an abundance of energy. Startups require alot of energy. You have to work hard, often and late. However startups are more of a marathon than a sprint. They require long-term mental and physical stamina to succeed.
- Enthusiasm – The danger with enthusiasm is it does not always last in the young and inexperienced. Startup projects can be dropped as enthusiasm wanes and reality kicks-in. It is important to be committed on a path whether young or older.
- Experience – A younger entrepreneur is often eager to learn and has fresh ideas untainted by working as an employee. Whereas an older founder often has great industry knowledge. Research shows that companies are more likely to survive if the entrepreneur is older, and has previous business experience.
- Money – Older startup founders tend to have more capital to invest than younger entrepreneurs. However older founders outgoing’s tend to be much higher with kids, houses, etc..
- Risk – Younger entrepreneurs are often less risk averse than older founders because they haven’t got so much on the line i.e. outgoings and responsibilities.
- Time – Without responsibilities a young founder can focus just one thing – working hard on the startup. Sequoia Venture’s Michael Moritz.: “distractions like families and children…that get in the way of business” . They also have time to make mistakes that can be learnt from and then try again.
- Innocents – The young tend to be more naive on how hard startups can be. Whereas the older tend to be more worldly-wise.
VC’s prefer more youthful startup founders because they have fresh ideas and can more easily be managed. The best founders are probably older serial entrepreneurs with both startup know-how and market experience. However they can suffer from destructive excessive egos at times.
There is no best age to start a company. Age plays both ways. It can be a strength or a weakness in either age group. Attitude and an inner driver, with a sprinkling of luck, is more crucial than age. An entrepreneur is made by building upon an individuals fundamental personal qualities, including determination, and not age.