What's the Right Age to Become an Entrepreneur? Hint: You Won't Like the Answer
By having the experience that you do, and by starting a venture in an industry that you are already familiar with, you've removed many of the risks that cause startups to fail
Let’s be honest – after reading the first part of the headline of this article, you expected something like: “There is no right or wrong age to become an entrepreneur. Anyone – at any age – can become a successful entrepreneur”.
Here’s The Deal:
If you’re one of those 20-year olds who is planning to drop out of college and become the next Gates or Zuckerberg, there is bad news for you:
You probably won’t become the next Gates or Zuckerberg.
Now this may sound a bit odd (hypocritical even) coming from a guy who started his first venture at the age of 16, his next at 18, and the next at 21, and who has never had a job.
And to be sure, there are some highly influential people in startup circles who think that entrepreneurs should start young. For instance, Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator once said “the cutoff in investors’ heads is 32… After 32, they start to be a little sceptical.”
The problem though is that these views are contradicted by the latest research coming out of MIT.
According to this research, the average age of founders who started a high-growth company is 45.
So if you’re a 20-something (or a 70-something-going-on-20-something) planning to launch the next “Uber for ____”, what are you to do?
Twiddle your thumbs until you are 45? Or invent the time machine and go back to when you were 45?
Not necessarily. If you are well above 45, if you are financially secure regardless of how your startup fares, and if your startup is in an industry in which you have a huge amount of experience, then forget the research and do what Nike tells us all to do.
By having the experience that you do, and by starting a venture in an industry that you are already familiar with, you’ve removed many of the risks that cause startups to fail.
Know that it’s important for a successful entrepreneur to be a dreamer. It’s also equally important to be a hard-headed realist and to never kid yourself. That’s the yin and yang of entrepreneurship if you will.
Think long and hard about whether the entrepreneurial idea you have really has legs (it might but it probably doesn’t). Think long and hard about whether you really have the experience and the chops to be able to execute on that idea (you might but you probably don’t – yet).
If, after a brutally honest assessment of your idea and your ability to execute on it, you still think that you want to go ahead with it, don’t let the research stop you.
You will probably still fail, but that’s OK – you’ll learn a heck of a lot and it will simply be a stepping stone to your next venture.
Sumantra Roy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Learning Yogi. He is a successful serial entrepreneur who started his first venture at the age of 16 when he was still in school.
Sumantra brings with him a diversified background in technology, education and marketing. Before Learning Yogi, he founded 2 other companies in the technology space.
He strongly believes that technological innovations can solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges. With Learning Yogi, he is aiming to fulfil a childhood dream - disrupt the education system as it currently stands and replace it with something that actually serves the needs of children from all strata of society, and especially disadvantaged children in developing countries.
Another of Sumantra’s ventures, formed in partnership with Dr. Sugata Mitra, the founder of the Hole in the Wall Project and the winner of the prestigious TED Prize, was involved in developing a chain of financially sustainable learning centres based on the Hole in the Wall model.
Sumantra studied Economics at Presidency College, Kolkata, and earned an MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad and from London Business School. The idea of starting Learning Yogi occurred to him while attending the Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank hosted by NASA.