The Early Age Hoax: Why is your forties the perfect time to start your own startup?
“I was 52 when I started McDonald’s. I had had surgery to remove my gallbladder and part of my thyroid, had diabetes and atherosclerosis. Despite this, I was convinced that the best in life was yet to come, and that success still awaited me. ” (1)
These words were contained in the introduction to the biographical book written by the famous American entrepreneur “Ray Cook”, founder of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide. The first edition of the book was published under the title “Grinding it out: The Making of McDonald’s” in 1977, nearly 25 years after the establishment of the famous chain of restaurants. Kroc was in his mid-seventies when he wrote this book, and the number of McDonald’s stores had exceeded 4,000 branches around the world at the time, with revenues estimated at $3 billion (2).
Despite all these years, or decades to be precise, the story of Ray Kroc, who worked almost his entire career as a milkshake distributor before turning into one of the world’s most inspiring business leaders, still provides the perfect answer to the question that Almost everyone asks it in the middle or end of their career: Is it too late to start a business?
My shoes are longer than you
In 2017, Paul Tassner took to the TED stage giving an amazing lecture titled: “How did I become an entrepreneur at the age of sixty-six?” Tanser told about his entrepreneurial journey, which he began – like any other entrepreneur – by preparing the idea, and knocking on the doors of investors in Silicon Valley and other financing centers in America in search of funding for his project. Tanser described some funny situations he encountered on his trip when he attended gatherings of teenage and young entrepreneurs, saying that they were younger than some of the shoes he kept, as he described it.
Tancer’s story began with a shock he received in 2009, when he was told that he had been dismissed from his job at the company where he had worked for nearly 40 years and had been referred to retirement. And like everyone else of this age – he was over sixty – Tanser spent two years between reading, sleeping long and spending time in front of the TV, to decide that this boring life was not for him, and that he had the experience to enable him to start his own start-up company.
At the age of sixty-six, Tanser launched his start-up to recycle environmental waste “Pulpworks” after he finally obtained funding from an investor who admired his persistence, although he was subjected to a long series of rejections from other investors who refused to invest in his project because of his advanced age, some of whom even advised him Frankly, he “spends more time watching TV”.
The company “pulpworks” succeeded and turned into one of the active companies in the field of waste recycling in America, and was based in San Francisco next to thousands of startup companies around the world, and is still considered one of the successful startups founded by an old person, who is now over the age of He’s seventy and still runs his own company.
Starting from retirement age
As for the most famous story in this regard, it goes back to Colonel Sanders, the founder of the Kentucky fast food chain in 1952, at the age of sixty-two. It is worth noting that this “Colonel” title was not a self-titled title given by Sanders to himself, but an official title granted to him by the mayor of the US state of Kentucky, after a long trip in which he was a distinguished chef who created a secret and delicious mixture of crispy chicken.
Before founding this restaurant, Sanders worked almost every possible job. In his twenties, he worked as a laborer in several industrial workshops, then as a firefighter. He married early, had 3 children, one of whom died, and by the beginning of his thirties he began a career in studying law remotely, through correspondence, but he failed to complete his studies. Then he traveled to work in the insurance field, and tried to establish a company that soon closed its doors, so he went to work as a sales representative.
When he reached his mid-forties, Sanders was working as a gas station manager in Kentucky, where he established a small restaurant to serve casual customers and travelers, where he cooked chicken meals differently than usual in other restaurants. Over time, customers flocked to his delicious meals in his restaurant, and he was honored by the mayor of Kentucky, but his budding restaurant was not lucky to continue when the highway that passes in front of the station was changed; This caused visitor numbers to shrink sharply, and eventually caused the restaurant to close.
Finally, Sanders, in his early sixties, was able to convince a number of investors to establish a fast food restaurant that specializes in serving chicken meals with his secret recipe. After a full 10 years of managing the restaurant and its branches and marketing its services himself, in 1964 Sanders sold the rights of his company to a group of investors for $2 million (equivalent to $14 million at today’s prices), on the condition that his trademark bearing his image would continue.
Sanders left the world in 1980 at the age of ninety, and at that time the number of Kentucky branches exceeded 6000 branches in 48 countries around the world, with total annual revenues estimated at two billion dollars, equivalent to 6.3 billion dollars in today’s figures (3, 4).
Teens and young adults game.. Really?
In recent years, the concept of “starting startups” has always been associated with the youth component, and other age stages have been excluded – directly or implicitly. Whenever entrepreneurship is mentioned, famous youth models come to mind, such as Steve Jobs, who founded Apple in his early twenties, Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook after leaving college, and others. This influence has been increased by the widespread media impetus that has always linked startups that garner huge funds with young people in their prime who chose the path of innovation early on.
Therefore, in order to analyze this phenomenon based on real numbers and statistics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted a broad survey in 2018, which included a large number of entrepreneurs founding startup companies in different fields in America, with the aim of knowing “the most appropriate age to start a successful startup company.” “.
For more credibility, the study focused on the founders of “Startup” companies that obtained a patent or a venture capital from one of the venture capital funds in America, provided that this company operates in the science and technology sectors in general, which means Excluding companies that classify traditional small and medium enterprises, such as restaurants and laundries.
Even geographically, the study stipulated that the startup be affiliated with a large entrepreneurial incubator such as Silicon Valley, with the aim of ultimately highlighting the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” that is always promoted as associated with youth; To find out the real average ages of the successful ones.
Surprisingly, the survey results revealed that the ages of startup founders vary greatly, but the average does not revolve around the 20s as expected. In fact, most of the founders were around the age of forty or a little over. In the software startup sector, for example, the average age of founders was 40 years, and the survey did not show a large presence of young people in this sector as is very common in the media. As for the energy, biotechnology and other sectors, the average life expectancy was 47 years.
As for the chances of success of emerging projects, the study observed that among the projects that achieved clear growth during the first five years of their launch – which is the period that determines the success or failure of emerging companies in general – the average age of the founders was 45 years or more (5) .
Even if you start early
In his book Super Founders: What Data Reveals About Billion Startups, author Ali Tamaseeb, partner in one of the largest Silicon Valley VCs, sets out to collect a wealth of data from the global entrepreneurship ecosystem, specifically on companies that have reached It is valued at $1 billion and has earned the nickname “Unicorn” for the past 15 years. The study concluded a large number of findings, including that the average age of founders when they started building their startups was 34 years.
The book, which confirmed the findings of the MIT study on the advanced age of successful entrepreneurs, reiterated that among the thousands of entrepreneurs there are indeed distinguished founders who were able to establish giant companies in their early twenties, but they – according to what Ali Tamasib mentioned in his book – are few who do not represent a phenomenon Clear between entrepreneurs in any way. However, by taking a closer look at the success of these youngsters, the study found that after several years of experience, they achieved their pinnacle of achievement and success.
“Outstanding people do great things even in their early youth, but they also achieve their best when they get older and experienced,” said Berry Ozzie, a professor at MIT, commenting on the study, referring to the Apple model he founded. Steve Jobs is in his early twenties, but he did not reap the great successes of his company until the emergence of its most famous devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, after Jobs passed his mid-forties (6, 7).
Why – then – as the age progresses, the entrepreneur can establish a more successful startup, compared to another person who started the same company in the same field at an early age? The answer includes a number of criteria, the first and most important of which is the element of experience.
When Ray Kroc founded McDonald’s in the fifties, he had gained extensive experience in the world of sales and marketing that qualified him to create his huge company. The same applies to Eric Yuan, founder of the popular Zoom video calling application, who started his startup at the age of 41 after leaving a senior position at Cisco International Systems. Like him, Jan Koum, founder of the WhatsApp application, who started the first steps of working on his startup at the age of thirty-two, after more than ten years of working as an engineer at Yahoo.
Regardless of age, the common denominator for all successful entrepreneurs is the need to have sufficient experience. The study says that founders with experience in a particular field, compared to other founders without previous work experience, have an 85% greater likelihood of launching a successful startup (8).
In the end, if we consider that the world of entrepreneurship is made up of two teams: the team of people with ideas, and the team of owners of implementation tools, from these two teams the “implementers” always win. And the implementers are always the people who have the experience to implement the ideas more efficiently and in less time, with the slightest amount of errors, no matter how much that white hair that invades their heads, increase or decrease.
- Ray Kroc quote
- Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s
- 3Colonel Sanders, success knows no age
- Colonel Sanders
- Research: The Average Age of a Successful Startup Founder Is 45
- Super Founders: What Data Reveals About Billion-Dollar Startups
- The Typical Unicorn Founder Started Their Business at 34
- A Study Found the Ideal Age to Start a Business (and It’s Much Older Than You Think)