by Megan McLatchie
Very often it’s too easily assumed that the only successful tech startups are only created by teenage boys living by laptop light in their bedrooms. What doesn’t help is that the idea has been reinforced by the likes of Mark Zuckerburg, who launched the first version of Facebook from his Harvard dorm room in his early 20s. Arguably, young founders have some advantages. Their generation has lead them to be early adopters of technology and have no big commitments such as marriage, mortgages or children.
Sure, students are in a good position to start something of their own after graduation and before the reality of life kicks in. But does this determine a successful founder? Various research studies have shown the average age of a UK entrepreneur to be in their forties, and ‘olderpreneurs’ are more likely to achieve top growth. So really, do good things come to those who wait?
Respect your elders
An obvious reason age is a benefiting factor for startups is experience. Startups are notorious for being risky, and the frequent unexpected surprise and challenge doesn’t go amiss. It could be argued that young people may have the edge by being in the know of fad trends, but older entrepreneurs will be bringing years of valuable insight and experience from work and everyday life, valuable experience that can be drawn on to solve a problem worth solving (precious knowledge that you can’t learn from a quick google online!).
Passionate for Problem Solving
You’ve identified a widespread need, and have an idea that is commercially viable. Good ideas are good ideas irrespective of what age you are! What matters is that you’re passionate about the solution needed to drive the idea forward. Years of experience also means you have a greater understanding of who your audience is and the passion to find the solution when you identify what would/would not work. Believe in yourself and your idea, Sheownsit.com suggests five ways to overcome doubt and start your own business.
Are you really Middle-aged?
You’re only as old as you feel. People are now living longer and healthier lives than ever before, so there is no rush to begin your tech startup in your younger years. The average life expectancy for women in the UK is 82.9 years and according to an article from Forbes, a 50-year-old founder is about twice as likely to achieve success compared to a 30-year-old. If we associate youth with a more carefree approach to life, it could be argued that with age we take greater care to think things through. Startups are risky business, so maybe caution could help. Nova’s lean approach means we’re constantly testing a startup’s success in order to foresee potential pitfalls and make appropriate changes to MVP.
Broadly speaking, when we get older we tend to have more responsibilities: family, mortgage, secure day job, and marriage being the biggies! We women are known for our multi-tasking. “Women bring a different life experience to business,” says Lynne Cadenhead, chairman of Women’s Enterprise Scotland.“[They] always have multiple roles in society: they’ll be wives, carers, mothers. They’re much more used to [juggling things] and more comfortable doing it.” Alongside this, technology has really broken down the barriers to starting a business alongside your day job, one of the reasons why ‘side-hustles’ are increasingly popular. Nova’s own process for starting a startup requires just one day a week from founders and actively encourages founders to stay in their full-time jobs.
Let’s finish with some famous examples of female entrepreneurs that started later in life.
- Vera Wang, (goes without saying) is well known for her global fashion brand but she didn’t open her high-end label until the age of 40. A long career working for Vogue meant she had the skills and life experience needed for her business to grow (and still continues to do so!).
- Martha Stewart is now a familiar household name, beginning a successful career as a chef and writer of cookbooks. At the age of 56, she created the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia media conglomerate. Branching out into TV, radio and even wine, it has continued to go from strength to strength.
- Robin Chase, the founder of car-sharing service Zipcar (the transportation service which allows customers to rent cars by the hour), only made the decision to set up her own company at 41. In 2013 it was sold for $500 million, making Chase one of the richest women in the world overnight!
So, maybe good things come to those who wait?
Megan McLatchie is a Marketing Executive for Nova, a tech startup co-foundry based in Liverpool. Nova provides free mentorship, support and guidance team, and resource investment to turn a good idea into a great startup. They have cofounded over 40 tech startups in the last 5 years, with a success rate far above the industry average.