Entrepreneurship at 50: It’s never too late to get started
In a world where startups mean flashy parties, jet-setting founders and college dropouts helming million dollar companies, it is almost unfathomable to expect someone over 50 to jump into the picture. But then again, it is also difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that today the planet has more people over 50 than children under five. As the world rapidly ages, we can no longer afford to scoff at older entrepreneurs.
by Priyanka Gothi
We must learn to encourage older budding entrepreneurs. They too must embrace this opportunity as well to drive innovation and solve community and institutional problems. Never before have older folks been placed better to launch entrepreneurial ventures.
With longer life spans, excellent education and over three decades of experience, older professionals have the perfect combination of judgement, connections and time which allows them to prototype ideas, pivot and grow scalable businesses.
It is only very recently that the spectacular success of tech-driven startups have created the clouded perception that founders need to be T-shirt-draped 20 something dropouts.
Historically the picture is quite different. Some of the biggest businesses in the world are led, not by college dropouts, but by seasoned professionals who leveraged their life experiences to create businesses.
Did you know … ?
Honda was founded at 42 by Soichiro Honda, Walmart at 44 by Sam Walton, Adidas at 49 by Adolf Dassler. Even technology companies have had older founders – Huffington Post was created by Arianna Huffington when she was 55 and Charles Flint created IBM at 61.
Based on the 2017 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity report, adults ages 20-34 made up about 35 percent of all new entrepreneurs in the United States in 1996. Today, their share of new entrepreneurs has gone down to 25 percent. Conversely, Baby Boomers (ages 50-64) have seen the biggest increase in the rate of entrepreneurship over the past two decades. This group made up 15 percent of entrepreneurs in 1996 and is at 25 percent today.
Interestingly a vast majority of businesses built by old founders also speak to Millennials or Gen Y and have long captured the popular imagination. So it is not only untrue that old entrepreneurs don’t have a pulse on their customers or technology, it is also unsupported to say that this age group lacks the drive to create and invent.
Accumulated life experiences place people between 50-75 in a pretty amazing space. They have subject matter expertise and understand why things go wrong, they usually have the connections to draw funding support without incessant networking and have the mindset to drive impact.
So how can older professionals wield a founder hat?
Leverage technology for de-risked entrepreneurship
Becoming an entrepreneur has long since been considered an act sprouting from luxury or desperation – simply put, no one in their right mind would consider treading this path which was laced with risks, financial instability and the huge opportunity cost of foregoing a paycheck. But today, with technology and strengthening startup ecosystems it is far less risky to create and build a business.
Being cynical about social media and co-working spaces risks alienating one from the connected world. For entrepreneurs to create and grow – they must open up to collaboration, learning and meeting like-minded people who could support or grow their ideas into tangible businesses. Working in an open, collaborative environment is also a key way in which one can create new opportunities.
Learn what you need to know with the countless free and paid resources out there that help first-time founders with business strategy, customer acquisition, product testing and even fundraising. And no, this does not mean you need to learn coding to start a business!
Stay away from the peer pressure
Startups tend to operate like cliques and focus on “how much money you raised” than “what problem have you solved”. Stay true to why you started a business and if it means you run an old-school sustainable non-VC funded business, then that’s fantastic.
In a nutshell, don’t wait. Unleash your inner wisdom and partner with emerging demographics, technologies and eco-systems to create services and products that will truly create an impact.
The time has never been better.
Priyanka Gothi is the founder of Retired Not Out, an online platform for companies to hire, train and engage seasoned professionals. As the world rapidly ages and we see a massive shortage of talent — engaging with this pool of experienced and networked individuals will enable companies to build a sustainable talent pipeline as well as drive retention and relevance for loyal employees.
In less than a year, Retired Not Out has built a community of over 500 seasoned professionals across all levels and successfully placed over 30 with corporates, SMEs and startups.
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