I. The average successful startup founder is 45 years old.
The startup world today is obsessed with young entrepreneurs. From Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft in 1975 at only 20, to Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook more recently (in 2004) at 19 years of age.
Sure, Zuckerberg might’ve said that “[y]oung people are just smarter,” but the idea that young entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful is definitely a myth.
- According to the Harvard Business Review, that’s the average age of founders by the time they founded their companies. As for successful startup founders—the 0.1% who experienced the highest growth in the last 5 years—this number increased to 45.
That’s right. Statistically speaking, you have a higher chance of being a successful entrepreneur if you’re older. So for those of you who are hesitating because you’re in your 30s or 40s and think that’s “too old”, don’t be silly. Probability is on your side.
II. You really don’t need to have a great new idea to become a successful entrepreneur.
The competition between Uber and Grab in Singapore shows us that there’s much more to a successful business than coming up with a good idea and implementing it first.
Grab’s dominance since Uber’s departure has even allowed it to expand its offerings to include GrabFood, GrabPay and more recently, GrabExpress (“us[ing] motorbikes for instant door-to-door delivery services”).
None of these services are novel ideas. In Singapore, GrabFood is preceded by Deliveroo and FoodPanda. Mobile wallets, from Alipay to Apple Pay, are a dime a dozen these days. GrabExpress, which is still in beta testing, is just like Indonesian ride-hailing and logistics startup GO-JEK’s GO-SEND.
Yet by startup indicators, Grab is considered a success. The company was last valued at more than $10 billion dollars and has investors that include Japan’s Toyota, South Korea’s Hyundai and other big names.
Think the youth are more creative? Don’t have a new-fangled idea to disrupt the industry? Don’t sweat it. Take someone else’s idea and make it better. Or launch it in a different market, or to a different audience or at a different time.
III. Venture capital is not your only source of funds.
When startups raise money and are valued highly in various rounds of seed funding, you can be sure they’ll make an appearance on tech startup websites like TechCrunch and Tech in Asia.
But venture capital certainly isn’t the only or even the best way to go about raising funds. Venture capitalists may write the biggest cheques, but as you probably already know, they never do so for free, requiring that the companies they invest in part with a portion of their shares.
Don’t want to give up your shares too quickly or to too many entities? Consider bootstrapping with your personal finances (working for several more years than your younger founding peers is likely to put you in a better position for this) or borrowing money from the banks (assuming you’ve been paying your debts, you probably have a better credit score than said peers). Don’t forget that you can also sign up for startup grants and schemes.
IV. You’re probably not getting anywhere close to a work-life balance.
We know we said that age doesn’t matter and that, on average, successful startup founders are middle-aged folk. But if you’re in your late 30s, with a family and two young kids whom you are determined to spend every weeknight and both weekend days with, remember that that’s going to be tough.
As the entrepreneurship writer for Inc.com, Paul Brown, notes, “if we are talking about success as… the achievement of fairly impressive goals, then… I have never met an entrepreneur who has achieved work-life balance”.
Is it just Silicon Valley startups where work-life imbalance is common? Unfortunately, no. Singaporean startup founder, Erik Cheong of Park N Parcel, shared his experience of attending to work-related messages past midnight on a daily basis at his company’s infancy.
While you can keep striving towards spending adequate amounts of time with your family and friends, you should know that starting your own entrepreneurial journey will mean spending a lot more time at work.