The perks of being a late bloomer.
There’s just something so inspiring about 20 somethings, acne scars barely healed, staring seriously into the camera, on covers of magazines. Headlines like ‘The world’s youngest billionaire’ in big and bold, pages that follow filled with tidbits like how they dropped out of college to pursue a world changing idea, their net worth and pictures of their luxurious mansions and ridiculously hipster-looking workplaces.
One moment we’re reading in earnest admiration, jaws on the floor, then before you can say Zuckerberg, BAM! our hearts are heavy, and heads filled with uncomfortable questions. ‘What was I doing at their age?’, ‘Is it too late to start something new?’, ‘Where should I hide this damn magazine so it doesn’t inspire my son to threaten to drop out of college again?’
But here’s the thing. Studies show that the Zuckerbergs, Spiegels and Jenners of the world are exceptions, not the rule. According to Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship, a paper by Pierre Azoulay and J. Daniel Kim of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, most successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged.
Azoulay says “If you knew nothing else, and you had two identical ideas, one proposed by a very young person, one proposed by a middle-aged person, and that’s the only thing you have to go on, you would be better off — if you wanted to predict success — betting on a middle-aged person.” And with good reason.
Here’s what we’ve got going for us as compared to young founders.
- Access to a wider network of social connections.
- More financial resources
- Better understanding of human relations needed to build and manage teams
- More time spent understanding the relevant industry
- Instinctive knowledge of how to anticipate missteps and failure
- Less textbook style and more street smarts
- More credibility with investors and banks
- More commitment to success (because all chips are on the table)
- More experience
- No acne 😉
The founders of McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and closer home, Bugworks Research and Unibev were all over 50 when they established their businesses. Even Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos had more success as 50-year-olds than as 20-year-olds.
So, we can all take deep breaths, get our jaws off the floor, and make that game plan. Magazine cover or not, here we come, world!
P.S. Hide that magazine with the cleaning supplies. He never looks there anyway.