5 Advantages Young Entrepreneurs Have Over Older Counterparts
I am so pro-millennial. Not just because I am one, but because of all of the articles I see slamming us. These are funny because there are some very successful entrepreneurs that are millennials: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Dropbox's Drew Houston, Snapchat's Evan Spiegel. Not to mention, some of the most famous entrepreneurs started their empires before hitting 30, such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell.
I started my first company when I was 16. I designed T-shirts, screenprinted them with a couple of friends and sold them to our peers at school.
Check out what Hank Ostholthoff, CEO of Mabbly, had to say about his experience dealing with older businesspeople:
“In my mid-twenties, I was working at a Fortune 500 company on a management team with seasoned pros almost twice my age. After a couple of years, I felt like I had outgrown the room and I was no longer intrigued by their status quo MBA approaches. So I opted out of the traditional business school track and went to go fail fast in a couple of startups. I had the opportunity to risk every dollar, reinvent myself over and over, and learn from the school of hard knocks.”
Here are some of the advantages I see being a younger entrepreneur:
1. Less responsibility
To family, to children, to bills, to whatever. Free of these obligations. we can be more flexibile, free and focused. This lack of responsibility can be the difference between an entrepreneur willing to take the risk, and one that is not. It can be the sole reason that a business is born, or the sole reason why a dream is bottled up and put on the shelf.
This can be a huge advantage. You don’t know what normal, best practices or standards even mean. You have no preconceived notion of what you need to do or can’t do. You already think outside of the box, push boundaries and live freely, and that’s what it takes to be an entrepreneur who changes the world.
3. Willing to take risks
The larger the risk the larger the potential return. Not so long ago, Elon Musk was down to his last $3 million (I know, poor guy). By age 32, he had earned approximately $250 million through PayPal and other ventures. However, building Tesla and SpaceX, he had burned through most of that cash, and had to come up with payroll to keep Tesla afloat. He wrote his last check. "I spent everything," Musk explains. "Everything. I had to borrow money from friends."
Well, it paid off. Less than 18 months later, Tesla went public and Musk earned himself a cool $630 million.
4. More time
As a younger person starting a business, we have more time to get better and gain more experience. Case in point, a young Kobe Bryant started playing basketball at the tender age of 3. We can all see how that proved to be a major advantage. Additionally, more time can mean more time to bounce back from failure. If a 19 year old fails in building her business, she has more years to try vs. a 40- or 50-year-old entrepreneur.
Young, successful entrepreneurs have an unending willingness to do, be and learn more. This willingness can translate to a major competitive advantage if harnessed and nurtured the right way. When I was younger, my willingness to learn earned me opportunity after opportunity because I was so willing to learn, I would trade money for knowledge.
Rather than go the corporate route, I would work at startups who couldn’t pay me, but who I could learn a great deal from. It was my willingness to want to do, be and learn more that helped develop my startup skills, which shaped my success. Without the willingness of my youth, I may have been stuck in a normal nine to five making more money, but not learning anything. I wouldn’t let that happen to me. But, that’s what can happen to people who don’t have the willingness to develop.
Brendan, a member of my Facebook group, shared this advice: “Never be satisfied. Keep on testing and making iterations of your product. Users are always looking for something new, you need to know what that is even before they do.”