Op-Ed: In Business, Older Entrepreneurs Are More Successful

When it comes to business, age does matter, but not in the way you may think.

Entrepreneurship is tough. It doesn’t matter what age you are.

Let’s face it; even at the best of times entrepreneurship isn’t easy. Starting with an idea and growing it into a viable company is a tall order. It requires a mixture of faith, determination, a little luck and a whole lot of positive attitude.

Add to that the necessity to plan ten different things and begin executing them at the same time; all the while watching your bank balance go down, when you really want it to go up and you are beginning to get an inkling of what most entrepreneurs face. But not really. You’ll only truly understand when you get out and do it.

For both young and old, entrepreneurship is tough. And although there is a ton of debate on this matter, there really is only one answer: Age does matter, but not in the way you may think.


Older Entrepreneurs Are More Successful

In research conducted by The Founder’s Institute as reported in Techcrunch, older entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful. Why would that be? I think there are several plausible reasons, but lets start the debate using some commonly cited ones I found about younger entrepreneurs. Specifically, they:

  • Have less bad habits to unlearn. True, but they also haven’t developed many good habits either. Experience does count.
  • Have less to lose. But, nothing is more motivating than having a fire lit under you. With mortgage, debts and family, success becomes the only option.
  • Are more ready to change the world. As Michael Moritz says in Time, they “see no boundaries, see no limits, see no obstacle that they can’t hurdle.” Again this true. But neither did Napoleon when he attacked Russia at 43.

What I am trying to say is that older entrepreneurs, with some life experience under their belt, I and others like me, are just as able to handle the startup life. In fact, they have some abilities that younger founders haven’t learned yet.


Nothing Beats Experience

According to a Forbes study of 5,000 startups in the US: 48% of the startups had a founder 45 years old or older.  However 4 years later, out of the surviving companies, 64% had a founder 45 years old or older. Meaning the survival rate of startups with older founders is higher. Surprised? I wasn’t. Not Really.

As an older entrepreneur, I think our experience helps us in determining several key points in deciding to create a company.

  1. Defining the problem. As Steve Blank would say: do you have a “hair on fire” problem or is it just “nice to have”? For example, when I decided to start kluje.com I was first drawing on my experience as a homeowner, and trying to get a renovation done on my condo. As it turns out, I found other homeowners with the same frustrations.
  2. Applying experience. As more mature adults we have had a bit more experience in the business world, especially with complex tasks (like so much of business) that we are better able to cope with the demands of being an entrepreneur.

Bear in mind that this my opinion, but I think there are many other older entrepreneurs who would share my thoughts. Feel free to comment or look me up on LinkedIn. I will be more than happy to share in the debate. In the meantime, enjoy disrupting your market.


Jamey Merkel is the co-founder and CEO of kluje.com a Platform as a Service company that aims to revolutionize the way homeowners find “Better Quality Contractors”. Connect with Jamey on Twitter.


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