Age for an entrepreneur, how old are startup entrepreneurs? Are you too old or too young? A constant question always seems to be: “How old should I be? Am I too old?” I have a few surprises for you, both with examples, and some survey material.
Many Famous Startup Entrepreneurs began Later in Life
First, let me give you a few examples. Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonald’s franchise, you may have heard, he didn’t start. Actually, he met the McDonald’s brothers when he was 52 years of age and that’s when he literally started with the idea. Wally Blume. You may not have heard of Moose Tracks Ice Cream, but age 57 was his starting time. Even though you may not know it, they are making 80 million dollars a year. The co-founder of LinkedIn was 35, that’s sort of on the young side actually. The founder of Curves was 40 years of age. It goes on and on.
Remember from Episode 01, the economic and technological change is a major reason to get a side gig or your own business.
Do you know that Martha Stewart was nearly 50 before she moved from the catering business into Martha Stewart Living and became that big magnet? There are even some people. If you remember the old TV show that had Justin Bateman on it, you’d think she wasn’t very bright. At age 48 she realized that some of the things that she wanted to do, she had to go back and she had to learn programming. She went back and learned how to program at 48. Vera Wang, she didn’t do her first dress design or any design until she was 39 years of age. It goes on and on.
Surprising Facts about the Age of Startup Entrepreneurs
Let me give you a few facts that you probably haven’t even thought of and that are really crucial for you to feel a little more confidence if you’re older and thinking: “Gee, what am I going to do now?” Remember the whole concept behind Life Unsettled is that if you’re a 50-year-old person then you have more years ahead of you than your entire adult life. Yes, living past 90 is greater than the 32 years you’ve been an adult, so plan on your next journey, plan on your next adventure.
A couple of little facts to help you out, too. What is the average age of an entrepreneur? It depends on where you are a little bit. It turns out in the United Kingdom it’s 47. For US, there was some research done by the Kauffman Foundation finding that the average age of a successful startup in the high-tech industry was actually 40. Yes, not 19, 20, 25, and all those years you heard, but the average age was 40. Gee, I thought they were supposed to be over the hill already for tech.
It turns out that high-growth startups are twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 than by people 20 to 34. Wasn’t it just a few years ago we were constantly hearing that it was the young people who were starting up all these neat, new companies? Yes, they may have started up Facebook and a few others, but a lot of the high-tech companies of today need a lot more breadth and a lot more in some other industry than a Facebook or something like that. Twice as likely to be over 55 than 20 to 34. I bet you didn’t know that.
Why Older Folks are Good Startup Entrepreneurs
Part of the reason I’m doing this is for you to think in terms of all the things that you have as your own experience, and in many cases how to meld technology. It doesn’t have to be technology. Vera Wing, that was designer. It can be technology melded with what you already know. The internet and technology have changed the world and they’re changing it very rapidly and continuing to change. Henry Kaiser of Kaiser Permanente, he linked together with a physician to form Kaiser Permanente when he was 63.
Colonel Sanders was Driven to Success at ‘Retirement'
Harland David Sanders, yes, Colonel Sanders, you’ve probably heard that over and over again, he was 65 years old when he started his first little business. Actually, not a store. He went around selling the chicken. What’s important about that, not only that he was 65 years of age, but the important fact is that he had something else going. He had dozens of jobs all throughout life; left or kicked out of almost everything. There he was at 65 years of age, his social security check was practically nothing, $105 approximately, he looks at it and realizes: “What am I going to do?” (Some other interesting facts about Colonel Sanders are found at the history.com web site.)
Colonel Sanders realized he had to do something to survive. You can use this same idea and technique to ensure your success (See episode on ensuring your success and dreams here). That is something that I talk about often, just like the immigrant mentality, but also like the person driven to succeed out of fear of failure.
We’ve heard about the Great Depression and how that had an impact on work ethic both for them and many of their children. The people that have come in as immigrants, the follow-up generation right after them see the potential and are pushed, pushed very hard in most cases by the parents. They realize how much better their life can be, so they have that drive. Colonel Sanders had that drive. Why? Based on fear, back to episode 24 (link above to ensure success), having that fear of being destitute. He had to do something, he had to succeed, and he had one really nice chicken recipe. What happens if your paycheck stops?
You’ve probably heard part of the story of Wendy’s Restaurants, but first let me go through it because most people have it messed up. Yes, Dave Thomas was the Founder of Wendy’s. He actually bought KFC. Here’s how it went. He was really the Head Cook at Hobby House Restaurants that started up and he expanded them. He was sent to Columbus, Ohio, he went and expanded the Hobby House Restaurants. He then turned them into KFCs and eventually within a few years he actually bought KFC. He only bought it for about 2 million dollars, but that’s about 15 million dollars today. Also, keep in mind that that’s a few years after it was founded, and Colonel Sanders by that time was in his late 60s-70s, so he was getting up there in years anyway, so that was a very nice retirement package for him.
Dave Thomas was already there in the company, ready and started his business. You hear how Wendy was actually his daughter’s name? Particularly funny, it really wasn’t. It was the mispronunciation of his daughter’s name. His daughter kept on referring to herself as something that sounded like Wendy, so they decided to call it Wendy’s, but that doesn’t matter. He also started late by starting out as nothing more than a cook in a restaurant, and then he was so good that he helped them expand. They asked him to go to Columbus, Ohio, and he started expanding the restaurant. Then he was able to eventually buy it out, and soon afterwards, he bought out Kentucky Fried Chicken.
You can start later in life, you can start whenever, and you can start from a variety of different things, whether it be some actress decides she has to go into a new career entirely, somebody who is a model and becomes Martha Stewart Living and the whole entire corporation. Martha Stewart became an icon. You can be somebody who is a cook, to somebody who is a journalist for the fashion industry—Vera Wang—who later became a designer but didn’t do the first design until she was 39. Henry Ford, by the way, didn’t even start Ford Motor Company until he was 40 years of age. Yes, lots of things can happen at different stages of your life. Most important: Keep in mind the important fact that most entrepreneurs, even in this high-tech period, the startups in the high-growth area are twice as likely to be startup entrepreneurs over 50 than 20 to 34.
Figure out, think a little bit about what you know, mesh it, merge it with some technology that you’re learning and hearing about, and go for it. Go right over to the website, www.LifeUnsettled.com, and get either the guide to solidify your vision for the future, as well as how to ensure its success, or the freebie on time management ideas, either one. Let's stay in touch. If you’re thinking of either expanding your current business, becoming startup entrepreneurs, or doing something a little different. Let me know what’s on your mind because that’s where I get some of the ideas that I research for these episodes.