Startup: Young vs Old

At the AGC partners conference this week, there was an interesting panel session on the topic ‘fostering innovation in global technology’. During the Q&A session, one lady in the audience raised a hand. She asked “In Silicon Valley right now, everyone seems to believe that it is the youth that changes the world. I think 80% of seed stage entrepreneurs are in their 20s. It seems like they are more appealing to investors than someone in their late 30s or 40s. do you believe that being young really has an advantage to make innovations? OR are ‘twenty something founders’ just a fad?”

Tim Draper, one of the panels shared his thoughts. He said he didn’t believe that younger entrepreneurs are more innovative. He saw it as a trend. He said “do you remember 90s? everyone was starting a company, especially young people, history repeats itself, some smart young entrepreneurs will survive, the last of them will disappear.”

The other panels said “being young can be an advantage since young people don’t limit themselves. They tend to be more aggressive and strenuous. They don’t know how big their barrier is, sometimes that helps. it helps them to keep moving forward”

The panels gave great answers. But, I have a simpler answer: “It depends on what you are building”. If you are starting an enterprise sales engagement platform, first of all, you need to understand how an enterprise sales team works and what kind of product they want. If you are a founder with 5 – 10 yrs experience at a firm with a big sales team, your chance of gaining subject matter expertise on this topic is pretty high, especially comparing to a kid graduating from a college. In contrast, if you are building a Snapchat? Then, the Young = Creative equation might work. You don’t need work experience to understand the market. You just need to know your audience: teenager & college kids. Like the lady who raised a question, nowadays, many people are under the impression that there is a bubble where young founders have an unfair advantage. However, according the study, the average age of tech company founders is closer to 40.

I would love to say “Silicon valley is just awesome to everyone regardless of your age” (full disclosure: I am not saying this because I already (sadly) passed the age group where I could be considered as ‘young’ ☺)

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