The Age Question (continued)

I walked into a minefield a couple weeks ago when I posted about the age of the entrepreneurs we’ve been backing. That wasn’t really the point of the post. I’d been thinking about my entrepreneur friends who are my age and have accumulated a lot of wealth in the past decade and what motivates them these days.

But the age question was the thing that got everyone’s attention. I mentioned that we have tended to back young entrepreneurs in their 30s and even in their 20s.

Well now Valleywag’s got a follow-up post (yup, they are drafting on me so I’ll gank an image from them), saying that mid 20s is the best time to start a company if you want to hit a home run.

It’s a sobering data set. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Google guys, Yahoos, Paypal, eBay, Skype. All founded in part or in whole by entrepreneurs in their 20s.

I don’t totally buy that age matters. I think, as I said in my original post, that age is a mind set.

But just last week I met with the son of one of the best entrepreneurs I’ve ever backed. The son is 20, and a junior in college. And he’s busting at the seams to go build something big and disruptive. Andrew pointed out to us in that meeting that most of the best and brightest kids he knew at Stanford were gone from school by senior year. The pull of the big idea was just too much.

Let’s recall that the Stones had made all of their great records (other than Some Girls) by the time they were 30. I have heard that the great scientific discoveries are almost always made by the time the person is in his/her 30s. Of course, there are exceptions to this pattern and painters certainly seem to get better with age as do many authors.

So I don’t know if youth is an advantage in the tech/startup world, but it certainly isn’t a disadvantage. And I see our job as being able to work with young entrepreneurs in a way that allows them to be their best while helping them where they need it. It’s something we are working very hard on perfecting.

The other thing you can take from that list from Valleywag is that many of those founders were at their companies for quite a while. Many still are. Most of the others stayed through the exit. Pushing founders out of their companies is something that is done way too often in our business. We need to figure out how to build companies around the founders, particularly these younger founders who might lack experience but have something even more valuable, a talent for building things that work incredibly well online.

So let’s celebrate youthful enthusiasm and the blind ambition that powers many of these companies. Figure out how to harness it and work with it. The results speak for themselves.

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