Should the grey hairs stop you from beginning a startup journey?

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Should the grey hairs stop you from beginning a startup journey?


Starting a new startup venture has been an exciting prospect among youths rather than those who choose not to call themselves young anymore (usually people over 30 in case of Nepal and for the convenience of this article, the term ‘old’ has been used to indicate them). Whenever we think about successful startups, it's usually the garage story or the dropout’s success case or wunderkinds that we have crossed our paths with. These stories make us believe that youthful energy, ambition, persistence and years of hard work in a tiny space is what makes your future look shiny as an entrepreneur. And when the reality strikes, we realise we are too old for that. The case would have been easier in countries where the culture of individualism is cardinal. But in Nepal, family life, new responsibilities, security issues and fear of failure and its effects on life of those  dependent on us ensure we are lodged to the harbour right.

But Nepalis should rather be galvanized by international figures who have culminated late. They have chosen a detour from the common structure of how life should be lived and even so, reached pinnacles. For instance, Charles Flint launched IBM at 61, Reid Hoffman started the successful career networking site LinkedIn at 36, Sam Walton started Walmart at 44, Asa Candler founded Coca-Cola at 41. The list goes on.

At this point, you might only be a little convinced that may be grey hairs are becoming an expensive excuse in the face of what you can still create with your life. And it's basically just stopping you from finding your solutions to satisfy your entrepreneurial zeal that's been dormant inside you, because while you are busy counting grey hairs, people like you are actually planting seeds to build great businesses. So, let's understand why your age should only be a superficial number.


Business started by older people are more successful



Even though old people apparently lack youthful energy, it is offset by their experience, improved decision making skills and knowledge – qualities which can improve their chance of success.  Older people go through an extended period of talent incubation period in their respective careers which harnesses their potential to start a successful business. In an article on Harvard Business Review written by Whitney Johnson, she quotes Duke University scholar Vivek Wadhwa who studied 549 successful technology ventures to find out that, “The average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, healthcare, and aerospace is 40. t The vast majority — 75 percent — have more than six years of industry experience and half have more than 10 years when they create their startup.” Moreover, according to a Kauffman Foundation study, number of entrepreneurs aged 55 to 64 are rising drastically and they are almost twice as likely to establish successful companies than those between 20-34.

Older people have better sense of direction



Startups, by convention, are led by young individuals who lead and manage a team of youths, which might sound fascinating but is equally risky given the experience and sense of direction young individuals have. In this case, old entrepreneurs’ experiences are handy to put things into perspective and provide a direction for the team to follow. They are more likely to have better market knowledge, are capable to foresee risks and changes, more effective at crisis management and competent in strategic decision making. Not having these competencies can be fatal for business. Moreover, since business ideas spur from prior knowledge and experience one has, older people can also have a larger playfield to identify the best opportunity they should embark on.


There is country for old men

Startup is known to be all about people who aspire for greatness and not just for money or living. Entrepreneurs usually want to leave a ‘dent’ on the planet, bring a change for better. And often young individuals are considered to be striving for this. However, this aspiration is also shared by individuals who have enjoyed a successful corporate career and now are looking forward to build something they value, something that can also create value for others. They simply have a passion towards something they want to commit to, regardless of what the output looks like. However, the output is usually desirable given their resources and potential while chasing their passion. It might also be the declining fear of uncertainty in life that plays its part in this case. But commitment to one purpose, one business can be a lot to ask from the millennials who need change, seek out for new and rich experiences in life and never like to settle for less. Since business is a journey that takes one through less and more, it can be difficult for them to keep up or even believe that ups and downs both don’t last for long in an entrepreneur’s life, more so at the early stage of business.

The youthful energy in you is something that can be generated, but the benefits of the experiences and knowledge you have derived from real world engagement cannot be earned without going through it. That being so, utilising it to create a business and thereby multiplying  the effects of your potential is a smart choice. Maybe the grey hair isn’t stopping you, it's only self-doubt of what you are really capable of.


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Guest Friday, 02 December 2022