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. Only you really care how old you are. Don’t let that be a self-limiting choice.
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.