Youthful Entrepreneur: An Oxymoron?

August 23, 2010

I read an interesting article in Newsweek (The Golden Age of Innovation) that argues that "new research has found that older workers are more likely to innovate than their under-35 counterparts." Contrary to stereotypes, the most successful entrepreneurs are not the 20-something tech savvy, but rather the 40+mature, experienced engineer. In fact, "the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55-64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34." Intuitively, this makes sense. At 55, I have a heck of a lot more connections to talent, resources, and capital then I did when I was in my 20's and 30's. But, what I don't have as much of is energy. Last year, a mid-50's friend of mine who is a construction engineer and develops large scale properties was bemoaning the fact that he could double is income if only he had the energy he had when he was 40. He stated the irony that when he finally had the experience and resources, he was too tired to exploit it to the maximum.

So what is happening here? First, the work by Duke University scholar Vivek Wadhwa, is challenging a commonly held belief that Entrepreneurs are born, not made.  It is also challenging many VC's preconceptions about who they should be looking to fund. Second, I think it raises interesting questions for those entrepreneurs in the 20-34 year bracket and that is how do they complete against older, better connected, more experienced and presumably wiser entrepreneurs.

This ties into many of the things I am writing about  and why I started my own consulting company. I believe the real opportunity in entrepreneurship in Canada is marrying the energy and ideas of those in the 20-34 age bracket with the experience, network and resources of the "boomers"  So, if you are the new kid on the block, fresh out of school in the past 10 years and looking to build a successful company, I encourage you to find your "boomer" advisors and coaches and plus them tightly into your business and this doesn't mean a once a quarter Board meeting.

If you aren't using your advisors, whether they be your Board or hired consultants,  on a weekly basis, you are missing a critical opportunity in your business.


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