In 33 days I will be 52.5 years old. No half-birthday celebration is in order, in case you were wondering. Don’t look for an invite.
I like being 52. Most days I don’t feel it, whatever “it” is supposed to feel like. Some days I do feel 52. It mostly depends on how my back feels when I get out of bed in the morning. So as I read Fred Wilson’s post on ageism this morning, it struck me that I don’t really “fit” in the entrepreneurial space where I spend the vast majority of my time. It’s a space filled with people who are, mostly, two decades younger than me.
Add to my advanced age the fact that I have six kids, five still not out of high school, and you have all of the ingredients for a recipe for heavy risk aversion. I would be lying if I told you that hasn’t been the case at many points in the past few years. Attempts to refute that would qualify me for a SAG card.I haven’t read the posts that lead to his writing, but that factor, the responsibilities factor, is something Fred left out of his post.
The Responsibility Factor
Entrepreneurs in their early 20’s don’t typically have the multitude of additional responsibilities that those of us who’ve lived a while have taken upon themselves. They risk only their own lives when they set out without income to start some bold new venture that they believe in, against all odds. Even those in their 30’s with a wife and a child have years of potential “make up time” before their kids are in college and retirement age sets in. If they fail, they have plenty of time to try again, or get a more traditional job. Or so I used to think. Time moves faster than any of us think it does.
I was wealthier at 40 than I am today, monetarily speaking. The arguments in the comments of Fred’s post about the greater “need” for money at a younger age don’t ring true in my mind. They are anecdotal at best. Certainly not even a majority of people who are starting a company in their 50’s have the bankroll to support the length of time a real startup needs to grow appropriately. The real issue is not age, but a willingness to pursue great ideas with almost reckless abandon, and execute like there is no tomorrow – no matter how many tomorrows you think you may have left on this planet. As Fred points out, there are companies being funded whose founders are in their 60’s. Ideas don’t care how old you are. I don’t really believe venture capital firms do either. [pq align=right]Only you really care how old you are. Don’t let that be a self-limiting choice.[/pq]
Ray Kroc started McDonalds when he was my age. That’s certainly encouraging. Because I’m not planning on dying any time soon, and I have a lot more to do.
Bill Leider says
Gregg Borodaty says
I agree with you that ideas don’t care about age (thanks goodness!), but it doesn’t alter the message of Fred’s post that ageism exists in the social/web/internet technology space. Being eight years behind you, I’ve personally experienced age bias in technology discussions, particularly with investors. As The New Republic article illustrates (linked in Fred’s post), it’s never overt, but masquerades as a fixation about something inconsequential that doesn’t keep them from funding younger founders. Fortunately, I don’t let it affect my day-to-day activities and instead focus on what I can control, which is my own ability to “execute like there is no tomorrow”.
Jeff Turner says
Gregg, I didn’t read the other articles. Perhaps I should, but at my age I can only read so many words a day before I get tired. 🙂
I recognize Fred’s point. But I also think another truth is at play here as well… it is that ideas that others have sought and received funding for would likely never make it out of my head. They just sound ridiculous to me. My guess is that they would likely sound ridiculous to others my age and yours as well. (And, quite frankly, perhaps to others in their twenties.) This is not to say that they aren’t ridiculous, perhaps they are, it’s just that “youth” or youthful thinking is likely to have a larger appetite for the ridiculous and move past judging the crazy ideas prematurely, or even maturely, and simply put them out there and find a way to make them come to life.
Childlike wonder is a gift. I’d like to hope it’s not reserved for the young.
Gregg Borodaty says
I agree with you regarding ideas, and my opinion is that childlike wonder is not reserved for the young. I see it exhibited everyday in people I know and work with of all ages. My point is more direct, if an investor is approached by someone our age and by another person in their late teens or twenties with the same phenomenal idea, I know who gets funded. Whether it’s right or wrong is a long discussion, but it does highlight investor bias, their desire to pattern match, and the search for more “black swan” events like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, etc.
By the way, I highly recommend reading the New Republic article at a minimum – just don’t let it depress you or go get botox injections because of it 🙂
I find that I still have so much I want to do and learn regarding technology and art. Having turned 40 last year, the question of whether I should abandon notions of learning or really, in my case, re-learning certain things that I had long since abandoned have come up in my mind. It especially becomes intimidating when I see younger people who seemingly come up with the most creative ideas, software, artwork, etc. I’ve always heard that the older you get the harder it is to learn new things. Maybe there is some truth to that but I am choosing to reject such notions. Your post is most encouraging.
Larry Brewer says
As a 57 year old, I rarely think about my age, and I have to admit that most of the people I work with never do either. They all think I’m 15 years younger than I really am.
I do think I’m a lot more conservative now and would be more likely to analyze the risk and return or any project that would take large amounts of time or money.
. If I had done that 12 years ago I never would have become a realtor.