You Need Not Be a 20-Year-Old Techie to Found a Successful Firm
When people think of entrepreneurs these days, they often picture 20-year-old guys in hoodies turning their college dorm rooms into coding palaces. They conjure up the guys famous for dazzling investors, dropping out of school and becoming Silicon Valley’s latest billionaire CEOs.
But for every 20-something hoodie-clad techie in Silicon Valley, there’s an equally impressive 40-something innovator. Success can come at any age. Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store when he was 44, and Mike Ramsay was 47 when he co-founded TiVo.
In fact, research shows that the median age of U.S.-born tech company founders is 39, and there are twice as many entrepreneurs older than 50 than there are younger that age 25. The young entrepreneur stereotype still persists, don't let this keep you from reaching your full potential.
Here are five tips for finding success at any age:
1. Focus on the entrepreneurial mindset.
Age is not a factor in startup success, but the entrepreneurial mindset is. You need passion, commitment and energy to build a thriving business. Focus on these factors rather than worrying about your age, gender or background.
For example, Intuit allows employees 10 percent of their time to work on new projects.
2. Build a diverse team.
Millennial employees may bring fresh perspectives, lots of energy and impressive technological capabilities. But companies also can benefit from the wisdom and experience of older workers. The ideal team includes people of all ages, backgrounds and experiences.
The aging of the global population will continue to create demand for new products and services and successful companies will need to take a multigenerational approach to their work.
3. Cut ageism from your company culture.
Avoid age-related jokes and replace them with language that focuses on talent and hard work. This will help create a company culture where people value being inclusive and open-minded.
In 2010, computer scientist Brian Reid, 54, filed a multimillion-dollar claim against Google for firing him on what he believed to be age-related grounds. He reported being called an “old fuddy-duddy” whose ideas were “too old to matter.”
Steer clear of ageism and focus on building a well-rounded company that appreciates the wide range of skills that a diverse workforce can bring to the table.
4. Develop unique strengths.
It’s OK for older entrepreneurs to be less comfortable with technology than say someone just out of college. Each generation has different skills and perspectives, so embrace your unique expertise. Then you can look for partners and employees whose skills and backgrounds complement your own.
5. Serve as an ambassador for your community.
When I was 35, a competitor discovered my birth date on my Facebook profile and approached one of my largest customers. This competitor told the customer that my company wasn’t sustainable because I was too young to know what I was doing.
But I didn’t lose business over it. I had a strong relationship with the customer, and the client knew my entrepreneurial skills were strong.
Instead of getting me down, this unfortunate experience made me to proud to be a young woman in business. You, too, can use adversity to fuel your startup. Think of yourself as an ambassador for the group of people you represent and use this as motivation to follow your dreams.
Even in the fast-paced startup world, age is just a number. Whether you’re a 15-year-old tech prodigy or an 85-year-old business veteran, the desire to innovate and build something from nothing can be fierce. With a little self-awareness and lots of hard work, you can make the startup world your playground and put stereotypes to rest.
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