Age versus beauty: is it better to be an older or young entrepreneur?

A discussion of some of the pros and cons of being a young, versus an older, entrepreneur.

Based on what we have witnessed around us, and have otherwise observed, the tech entrepreneur tends to be young – typically well under the age of 35. As a result, and to some degree, there seems to be a stigma, or at the very least expressions of surprise, when more weathered individuals are also in that category. Below, we discuss some of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the youthful and older entrepreneur.

The perception of risk

Generally, in having been in the world of work for at least a decade and a half, and possibly with the responsibility of family and children, older entrepreneurs may be need more stability in their lives. They may be more averse to financial instability that could be experienced when establishing and operating their own business, and especially when they might have several commitments that must be met, for example, mortgage, car payments, their children’s needs, planning for retirement, etc.

On the other hand, youth entrepreneurs are likely to have relatively few obligations and limited overheads, when compared with their other compatriots. Some might still be young enough to live at home, or to be supported by family and friends without undue hassle. Further, and at that age, they may be more likely to be buoyed by enthusiasm, which fuels their fearlessness and propels them to jump in and try to launch their exciting, new venture.

The blessing and curse of experience

Possessing life and work experience can hold anyone in good stead, especially to guide the choices and decisions they make, and reduce the chances of grave missteps. That is a key argument made in favor of the older entrepreneur, who is likely to better navigate some of the pitfalls, but also more efficiently address some of the challenges that inevitably emerge when managing a startup or business.

Having said this, it could also be argued that ignorance is bliss. In the absence of experience, and being oblivious of potential pitfalls, the younger entrepreneur may be more inclined to focus on the desired outcomes, and not overthink challenges or situations that ‘could’ emerge. With more mature individuals, they can sometimes allow themselves to be dissuaded from embarking on a new venture, by drawing on past experiences (of themselves and others), and ultimately talking themselves out of starting a business in the first place.

Resources to further the business

At some point during a business’ evolution, it draws on resources of its owner, and of others. In the first instance, young entrepreneurs are likely to rely primarily on family and friends to finance their venture, as many of them might not yet have developed adequate credit history, or a longstanding relationship with their bank to leverage secure needed funds.

On the other hand, the mature entrepreneur, may be able to draw on his our own savings, for example, to fund the business, in addition to the support family and friends. Also, s/he is likely to have nurtured a broad range of relationships over time, and may be in a better position to draw on them, to secure funding, or for contacts that can assist them and the business.

The struggle

Starting and growing a business can be a harrowing experience, filled with considerable sacrifice across many aspects of the entrepreneur’s life and that of their family. The young entrepreneur, who may only have responsibility for his- or herself, may be more than willing to put in the long days and/or nights, along with the financial sacrifices, and absences from family and friends, to feed into the business.

With the more mature individual, compromises may have to be made as dictated by his/her life responsibilities. Hence, on the face of it, it be argued that the older entrepreneur may not have the stamina to struggle and nurture a fledgeling business venture on a sustained basis.

The above points, are just a few of the arguments that can be made for and against young and older entrepreneurs. Although in summary, they appear in favour of youth and enthusiasm, the benefit of experience can lead to a less stormy path, and a successful and viable business at the end.


Image credit:  Tambako The Jaguar (flickr)