who makes better founders – younger or older entrepreneurs?
A very interesting thought crossed my mind the other day – it got me questioning whether age is actually a metric that matters and whether VC’s take this into consideration when making investments.
I know as a young founder in my mid 20’s, I faced many challenges; people certainly look at you from a different perspective, but that all changes the minute they hear you talk, or witness how you handle meetings or situations.
There has been some really significant young founders such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, who all made it to the top in their 20’s. Of the $1 billion+ tech founders of Silicon Valley, they had found that 20-something founders made up almost 40% of this club.
That does make one think about whether age matters or not…
So, is 20-something the preferred founder age for VC’s to invest in?
In my opinion age is just a number. What VC’s want is conviction and passion from the founders, fearlessness, experience in the given area and the ability to execute. And above all, emotional intelligence. This is one of the most critical elements I believe a successful founder possesses.
Many founders can produce ideas, yet a rare few execute them to great success.
It is great to have the passion, the fire, the drive and the willingness to do what it takes, but along the journey some really tough storms come along that requires a very strong emotionally intelligent entrepreneur to fight it through. In some cases, a situation requires you not to fight, but to sit still, do nothing. And doing nothing for someone with a low EQ could seem impossible.
Younger founders today certainly have the upper hand as they grew up with technology and tech comes more naturally to them, while our generation was only really introduced to tech much later in our lives. Some might say us older folks had more opportunities at the beginning of the tech revolution and that new ideas are getting more and more difficult to come by.
The more we move into the world of tech and what it introduces, the more opportunities it unlocks for the chosen ones, the founders that are looking at the future through the right set of eyes. These founders have the emotional intelligence to lift themselves from their current position and look at the future from a completely different vantage point.
The benefit that older players bring to the game is experience. EQ generally increases with maturity if you focus on it enough, experience and high EQ is an absolute winning combination. You need to be able to manage that passion and fire and focus it in the right place, and not around a boardroom table when a heated discussion is underway.
I have met 20-something founders and 50-something founders – good founders inspire you regardless of their age. In the end, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, what matters is the passion to make a dent in the universe.
My conclusion is that age is just a number. Passion, fire and drive can be controlled by EQ, and EQ exists in younger people too; this is where our young superstars come from. What you lack in experience, you make up for through mentorships that guide you every step of the way.
I have made a habit of never making any big decisions or taking on big conversations without consulting with my mentors first. If you can master that at a young age, you are an experienced, emotionally mature founder, irrespective of your age.
written by – Carl Wallace | Founder + Group CEO