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Starting Up Young: The Pros and Cons

Starting Up Young: The Pros and Cons
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You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Starting from the Silicon Valley, success stories in the past to a more recent line up of startup poster boys, young founders seem to be ruling the roost. According to a study by Forbes magazine, often the “Grand Slams’ of entrepreneurshiphave been achieved by inexperienced young visionaries in their twenties. 

Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft are products of twenty-something minds and are good examples of the young making lasting impressions on the entrepreneurial landscape. At 21 years of age, Ritesh  Aggarwal of the budget startup - OyoRooms, is India’s youngest millionaire,thus proving that age is no barrier to creating a viable long term business. Investors should have plenty of reasons to look at these young entrepreneurs for the many advantages they possess by virtue of their age and exposure.

“People under 35 are the people who make change happen”, said Venture Capitalist Vinod Khosla as far back as 2011. The youth see no boundaries, are not bound by any limits and are not daunted by any obstacles. Not having burnt their fingers through experience, the youth are naturally fearless and naive. These are good enough reasons why they are more willing to bet their money on brand new, out of the box ideas which eventually cause disruptions in a standardised marketplace.

Free from the baggage of over analysing, over thinking and over engineering, youngsters have a much faster pace of recognising and accepting what is new. They are also more likely to take risks. The larger the risk, the larger the potential return. Snapchat founder, Evan Spiegel launched his photo sharing app at the age of 23 while Drop Box, the file storage platform was founded by Drew Houston at the age of 24.

In the technology and online sectors, this is the first generation that has grown upwith technology and already has years of exposure to its usage compared toits older counterparts. So it is natural for them to think bigger, newer and better than their previous generations who have a lot of catching up to do.

As the market is becoming increasingly technology driven, it is natural that the younger entrepreneurs should have a better feel of the pulse of the young consumers.  This is why the start-up space is largely dominated by young blood.In fact, 80% of the Indian start-up demographic profile of unicorns is ruled by the younger age group.

On the other hand, the young have a tendency to be impulsive and may not be prudent in their management of finances. Moreover, they may take rash decisions which may not be in the best interest of the business. The wrong decisions and behavioural issues at some renowned start-ups like Housing.com are recent lessons in how putting too much money in young founders hands with no guiding hand can misfire. But a little maturity can make all the difference. Also, if experience can be married to their fresh outlook, it can significantly improve their chances of success. They can even surround themselves with experienced mentors or CEOs for critical guidance.

Experienced counterparts have a well developed network, financial links, better vocational skills and foresight to prevent hindrances in the day to day working of a start-up enterprise. Having one such person on board paves a smooth roadmap for a young entrepreneur to follow.

Young entrepreneurs should also recognise the value of proper training and education. Being in a hurry to put their ideas in motion at the cost of gaining knowledge in relevant fields will not help in long term survival. Getting exposed to organized businesses in a job is also a good way to gain insight into structuring businesses and plugging weaknesses. Tempered by relevant education, work experience and some network support, a young entrepreneur will have smoother transition into an entrepreneurial career. 

At the end of the day, the age of a founder is not a factor for determining the disruptive capability  and relevance of a startup. It is the unique vision and a well thought out roadmap by a prudent, resilient and talented leader which will make all difference.

Edition: December 2016

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