Does age have any bearing on the success or failure of start-up business today? There seems to be a consensus that there are actually two ‘best’ ages to for success – one age is influenced by opportunity, the other on readiness.
When the opportunity arose back in the 1980s for start-ups in the emerging computer industry, the entrepreneurs who leapt head-first into this exciting new field were predominantly in their early to mid-twenties – we can include Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in this category. They both had the vision to see the opportunities being offered, and didn’t wait until they had finished their education, or had gained business experience.
Thirty years on it is much harder for millennials as a demographic to succeed in this way, as they are both unwilling and unable to start new businesses when they are often crippled by massive student debt. This leaves the field wide open for the ‘not so young’ – the still enthusiastic, but often more financially stable business person with a great idea.
History has set several great precedents for the middle-aged entrepreneur – reacting to a need or opportunity that presents itself. Henry Ford didn’t succeed until he was in his forties, Colonel Sanders of KFC lost his job as a lawyer, and ended up cooking in a service station. He worked at the business until he franchised it when he was 62 years old.
At the age of forty six David Duffield founded Peoplesoft – a hugely successful software company eventually bought by Oracle – and after that deal (when he was sixty four) went through, he created another company that looks as though it will be just as successful. It would seem that the start-up mentality is not bound by age – it is all about experience, opportunity and enthusiasm.
There are several business leaders in the world well over retirement age, who are still huge influencers in the corporate arena and making headlines – Richard Branson at 65, and Rupert Murdoch at 84 are two of the sharpest minds in the business world today.
It would appear that the grey nomad is driving off the road, parking the mobile home and becoming the ‘greypreneur’ – research shows us that seniors have surged to the forefront of the entrepreneurial world. They have everything going for them – a level of financial security, the contacts and network to raise cash, and the previous experience that assists to make fewer errors or poor decisions.
It seems that the success or failure of a start-up business is not determined by age – but more by the vision, the reaction speed, the self-discipline and the overall determination of the operator.