Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

Vallywag on Older Entrepreneurs

Lots of interesting chat around on the ideal age to be an entrepreneur starting a new company.

Matt Mullenweg
Matt Mullenweg

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s view is that most entrepreneurs form their companies in their thirties, and few are older than that, although many are considerably younger. Matt Mullenweg, for example, started WordPress at the raw age of 19.

Nick Denton at Valleywag responds with some logic, “My guess: older entrepreneurs fail less often, but succeed less stunningly.”

It’s said that VCs will not back startups run by the over thirties. I’m sure we can all think of exceptions to that rule, but it probably has some traction in the marketplace. However, as Denton says, “Even if there were evidence that young entrepreneurs are more likely to strike out, risk-hungry investors will still fall for youth.”

As Wilson says, “… only one of the entrepreneurs in our current portfolio is older than 45. And he’ll probably be starting companies until he dies. It’s what he does”.

Of course, this debate begs a lot of questions. Would any VC back Richard Branson if he made an application for funding? The truth is Branson doesn’t need the money, having been successful for decades in putting together a billion plus fortune. So the chances of him approaching VCs are slim to vanishing. If someone like him were to arrive at the first pitch meeting, he would either be an unknown quantity or have previous failures behind him.

Anyone over 40 it seems should consider bootstrapping their startup. In their thirties? Ditto, unless there are pressing reasons not to.

Below 30, go for the money if you can, sell out soon and use the small fortune gained to set up a non-funded project that you can nurse for as long as you wish without pressure to sell.

As someone who is a bit older than 30, I know a number of people in older age-groups who have started businesses — even a few in retirement. A good proportion succeed because:

1. They have a lot of experience.
2. Are more cautious.
3. Probably have their own funding.
4. Have nothing better to do.
5. Have credibility with bankers and customers.

They won’t create YouTube, but they might just come up with a WordPress or a steady-as-she-goes content business.

Like everything else, it comes down to the individual.

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