It’s fashionable to call yourself an Entrepreneur. That name applies to startups as well. Many students are involved in university entrepreneurship programs, involved in creating or studying startups. Mature professionals, displaced from the workforce in 2008, participate in programs offered by local business incubators and accelerators. Who doesn’t want to be “the twenty-something” to found the next Facebook®?
Well, lots of people don’t. That’s not necessarily the goal they strive for.
There is something to be said for being an entrepreneur who also has professional experience working for someone else. Having prior professional experience creates value in ventures headed by CEO’s who are over 30, 40, or as Vivek Wadhwa discussed on PBS NewsHour, over 50, you name it. Roya Wolverson’s TIME article suggests that “venture capitalists may also like working with young people because they are more impressionable and have fewer bad habits to unlearn.” However, The Founder Institute data suggests that the majority of entrepreneurs emerging from their program come from the 30-40 age group.
For some reason, twenty-somethings are loathe to pry their hands off their nascent startups and move on and get a day job. Entrepreneurship is addicting, admittedly. However, making a decision to put your venture on Pause seems to be equated with being a failure in the eyes of younger folks. If you ask older entrepreneurs in that 30-40 or older age range whether they feel they are failures, because they pursued successful careers in their early 20’s up until the age of 50, how many of them would tell you they had been anything but successful?
Older startup CEO’s haven’t necessarily let go of their dream to be an entrepreneur. They just made decisions, “life-pivots” if you will, to table their innovation for a while and “do life”, get a job for a company, get married, buy property, have kids, etc. An older entrepreneurial CEO may have an advantage over a younger one, simply because they’ve handled their personal money and made investments themselves. Due to their successfully establishing themselves in careers working for others, these older entrepreneurs are able to self-fund instead of going to friends and family. They tend to incur debt to expand, rather than to emerge. They have a better grasp of how to lead, how to finance, and how and when to delegate. They leave less of their venture up to others; they are willing to assume responsibility for every aspect of their venture.
The true value of entrepreneurship programs may be in the impact that mindset has on the culture and future of legacy corporations, industry and professional segments and how small business is conducted in today’s competitive global economy.
How will you apply your entrepreneurial studies and know-how throughout your career?
The dust is clearing since the financial debacle of 2008. We acknowledge we all are doing business in the digital millennium. Business is conducted in a global financial ecosystem. The entrepreneurial movement has been gaining momentum, particularly in response to individuals displaced / downsized out of corporate positions they felt they were going to hold, for life. Economic development is focused on nurturing entrepreneurship at the local and regional level. Universities have established or are forming some weighty programs in entrepreneurship.
What is your role in connecting these dots, if you are a mature entrepreneur? You know by now it’s more than being a young person with fire in your belly and passion. You are not “all washed up” if you haven’t launched a startup in your 20’s. That’s just the beginning of what you bring to the marketplace and when you might launch a venture with stickiness.
It’s about process and discipline as well. Older entrepreneurs understand what’s required, in part because they have applied these processes, maintained in a disciplined manner, to every corporate position they ever had before they decided to pursue their venture full-time. They view their employment experiences as business cases which contribute to their vision for their own venture. In other words, they continuously learn from their experience. They will adapt, adopt, and apply their learnings into their own business case, that of their venture.
What stage are you at in your career? Are you in or out of a startup? How will you apply your experience as you mature?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.