Age is an age-old argument when it comes to entrepreneurs, but late starters have the skills and knowledge that only come with experience.
Our image of entrepreneurs in recent years is often twenty-something year-old men who strike it hot in the tech world. Think Mark Zuckerburg with Facebook, Evan Speigel for Snapchat and Drew Houston’s Dropbox. But that stereotype is only a small slice of the pie as many entrepreneurs don’t launch their own start-ups until their 30s, 40s and beyond having learnt a thing or two about business and life.
Despite the focus on young start-up stories, there are successful entrepreneurs across the age spectrum who undoubtedly share an ambitious attitude. For young starters, there is likely less fear of failure, less to lose and naivety and inexperience can be a benefit for breaking conventions and pushing limits. Older starters, however, typically have more responsibility, liability and potentially more to lose. But what they may take on in risk they make up for in experience with wide-ranging skills and knowledge, a strong reputation, an established network and the proven diligence to execute plans.
In 2015 a study by Swinburne University found ‘seniorpreneurs’ – those aged 55 to 64 years old – were Australia’s fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs. These older founders have a more stable foundation to launch and a clearer vision and plan for what they want to achieve and how.
Another recent study by Startup Muster reported that the average age of Australians who founded businesses in 2017 were 35 to 40 years old. According to United States Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, it is 35- to 45-year-olds who have the best chance of success: “Between these ages, we perceive opportunities better than at a younger age while maintaining confidence in our abilities – the perfect recipe for entrepreneurship.”
Founder and creative partner of WeThree, David Gilligan, has been in the business of design since the end of high school. He has been creative director for some of the world’s most well-known agencies and brands, including Saatchi & Saatchi Design, Ogilvy and Vodafone, and in 2016 at the age of 48, he started his own practice based at Desk Space.
“I started WeThree late in my career as it felt right. I had more than 25 years’ experience in design and over 10 years as a creative director, learning about all types of different businesses. After working with some of the very best designers, strategists, account managers and business men and women in the world, I felt I had all the experience I needed, and I was confident that I could run a small design business of my own,” David explained. “Building the team around you is key and working at Desk Space gave me that opportunity. As a small business you look to partner with other small and talented companies and like-minded individuals. So, it was the combination of the right time and the right place that have made it all possible. But it is extremely hard work. It is endeavour and belief that keep the business and the dream alive.”
Age shouldn’t be a hindrance to starting a new business rather it should be used to your advantage. The real keys to success are an ambitious attitude, a validated idea, a ready market, the right support and the determination to succeed.
For inspiration of other successful late starters check out this infographic from Funders and Founders: