Ageism

There has been a lot of chatter recently about ageism and the old vs young debate in tech. The New Republic has a post up today on the topic. And last week the New York Times Magazine featured a long article on the topic.

There is no doubt that tech is a young person’s game to some extent. And there is no doubt that VCs are biased towards younger founders and against older ones.

However, it’s not an absolute thing. I’ve written about this before here at AVC. At USV, we have backed founders in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. I think we would back a founder in her 60s or 70s too but we have not yet had that opportunity in an investment that made sense to us. The Gotham Gal recently backed a founder in his late 60s. I am pretty sure that will be a good bet.

I saw this graphic on Tumblr today. It made me happy. Ray Kroc started McDonalds when he was my age (52).

founders over 35

 

My point is this. Yes tech is biased toward younger people. To some extent, USV may be biased in that direction. We have not done a distribution of the ages of the founders we have backed but I suspect it would weight a bit toward the younger ages. My bet is that the median age of the founders we have backed would be mid 30s.

But as this graphic shows, you are never too old to start a company. And I promise you that USV will consider any investment in our sweet spot (large software based networks) regardless of the age of the founder. Age is a two way street. Youth brings some positives. But age brings experience. And that is a pretty valuable thing.

#entrepreneurship#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Thomas

    You could do a distribution of your founders ages in half a day, but you wont because you know what the shape of that curve looks like.

    1. fredwilson

      Actually I haven’t done it because I haven’t done it. But I will do it today and I will publish it here tomorrow. I already copped to the fact that it will skew towards the younger side. I don’t think the data will be any worse than that

      1. Dale Allyn

        In fairness (to you) it’s not entirely up to you what the age distribution of your founders is. That is, you invest in projects which appeal to you, which match your thesis, and which can be negotiated at terms acceptable to you. If those projects are coming from younger founders, so be it.Ageism is real, and passing a business opportunity due to one’s age is foolish. I have a close friend with whom I do some projects who is in his 60’s; goes to the gym for a hard workout 5-6 days per week; has more energy than any 30-something I know; plus brings with him business experience and connections, life-experience and wisdom. He’d be an important asset on nearly any business team. To me, for most projects (or at least many projects) a team comprised of people of diverse age has potential for making fewer mistakes and capturing broader markets.

      2. Zog

        Something doesn’t seem right about all of this ? Are VC’s backing a great idea ,product, business plan on age ? I must admit I’m older but there seems to be some sense of arrogance going on in the world today that I believe is going to come back and bite everyone.

    2. John Bradburn

      What does the shape of the curve tell you?The interesting (but practically impossible) analysis would be to look at the curve of founder ages backed compared to the curve of founder ages for all deals seen. Without that, not sure how you tell if there is a bias.

    3. fredwilson

      i just did the analysis. i guessed at the ages for many founders. i will get the exact ages and publish the exact data here soon. but this is pretty close because i have a good sense of the ages of the founders we have backedteens – 120s – 1330s – 3240s – 1950s – 260s – 1median age – 35

      1. Mark Gavagan

        It will be interesting to see the performance over time among founder age groups. Also, I wonder if seed funds are significantly different in their distribution.

      2. jason wright

        i like mode average.

      3. Salt Shaker

        I found the NYT’s article disturbing. Reeked of naivete, privilege and arrogance. Curious about the teen founder and the one in h/her 60’s (outliers, for sure)….Could you elaborate a tad on both?….Also, although not enough data above for statistical reliability, would be interesting to look at the median age on successful/unsuccessful exits too?

      4. Richard

        From a data miner’s perspective, the value is how many were turned down in each category.

      5. LE

        The other thing to consider is the “Bob Dylan” factor. [1]That is the people who will try to do a startup are people who have nothing to lose. They have nothing many times. No golden handcuffs.Even though the obvious thing is that when someone is older they have family, kids and obligations they also are also way less likely to drop something that is already working to take a gamble.Ask yourself if any person with a good paying job (perhaps your attorney?) is likely to ditch that and do a startup? Not likely. Has happened but not likely.Consequently someone in their 20’s 30’s has way less to lose because there is little opportunity cost. Hence more of them are out there giving it a shot. And the numbers reflect that.[1] Bill McNeely left a job at, I think, Walmart to give his idea a shot. But if he were in a high paying job at Walmart would he have taken that gamble? The answer is he almost certainly that he wouldn’t have.

      6. ShanaC

        Still on the young side.

  2. BillMcNeely

    We should be thankful that our youth have the opportunities they do. I can’t tell you how many meetings i walked into in the Middle East where I was the youngest person by at least 10-12 years. Outside the US if you are under 40 you are only qualified to carry the bags.

    1. andyswan

      absolutely.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      It’s pretty exciting. I think of all the money that’s being invested as paying for their education. Would that same money be invested in providing a traditional education? No, and certainly “education” is not the investor’s intention. Yet, the result is that thousands of 20-somethings are learning lessons that will benefit our economy for decades to come. It’s not so much what they are developing so long as they are the ones being developed in the process.Sure, easy for me to have this perspective when it’s not MY money.

  3. Farhan Ahmed

    Great to hear that USV is age-agnostic when considering its investments, as I would imagine any top-tier VC would (and should) be.Do you also encourage your portfolio companies to follow the same route? I believe much discussion around ageism has been around young startup founders discounting the experience factor and overweighting youth.

  4. reece

    why not run the numbers on founders you’ve backed? and/or sounds like a good project for one of those USV analyst hopefuls (hint hint to those who are reading this)

    1. Dave Pinsen

      And run it by gender and race too?

      1. awaldstein

        Why does race matter in any way–even as a stat?

        1. Emily Merkle

          Indicators of race-agnosticism are a powerful motivator of young minority entrepreneurs.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          Same reason age and gender matter, no?

          1. awaldstein

            I guess…My experience with tech especially growing up in the valley is that it was always very race agnostic.

          2. awaldstein

            I can’t remember a company that I worked for in the valley that across market and engineering there was a strong mix of ethnicities.Not worth pounding on but this doesn’t hold true from my experience.

    2. fredwilson

      Did a best guess version in response to a comment below (near the end of this thread)

  5. Vineet Madan

    I just started my first business last year at 40, but that’s after nearly decade in the industry of interest (education) which is notoriously difficult to figure out and many years of partnering with, investing in, and acquiring ed tech businesses for a large player. Experience certainly helps but one thing you didn’t cite is the ‘rolodex factor’ or whatever we choose to call it now that rolodexes are long since extinct. In complex businesses, such as education which is B2B, B2C and B2Government all rolled into one, having a network of well-placed industry contacts has been invaluable in our first year.

  6. Pramod Dikshith

    I have always been a firm believer of having a balance. Bravado of youth can work great with new ways of solving a problem but can pose a challenge when scaling those ideas. If you look at the way Google and Facebook have evolved, they have balanced between the Bravado of Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckberg and the maturity of Eric Schmidt and Sheryl Sandberg.

  7. markdhansen

    Truth is, in a lot of creative fields, the people doing truly breakthrough work are in their 20s. I was trained as a mathematician, and I saw it in that field. In tech, its undeniable as well. Partly, maybe its because younger people aren’t already invested in doing something else, that its easier for them to get involved in the early stages of the next big thing. Partly, I think its also because in your 20s you have a ton of raw energy and drive that kind of gets replaced to some extend by wisdom and caution as you get older. Sure, there are lots of exceptions – Andrew Wiles, solved Fermats Last Theorem in his 40s. This is not a rule, but it seems to be a valid observation. I don’t think its “Ageism” if VC firms find that the pool of good investment opportunities disproportionately skews young. On the other hand, if you were seeing a lot of 60 year old founders with great potential and were turning them away, that would be Ageism. But, I doubt that’s the case.

  8. ErikSchwartz

    The real issue is that the problem cascades. Younger founders pretty blatantly and overtly tend not hire older employees (calling it “culture fit”).

    1. LE

      Hey look I remember when I was in my 20’s a guy walked into my place (he was a customer) and wanted to be my partner and “show me the ropes” and “take me under his wing”. He was in his 40’s. I remember being weirded out by that at the time. Part of the problem was his checks said “DIP” which meant (I found out) that he was in bankruptcy. Part of the problem was I felt he just oozed some kind of distrust. He was to pushy. He was slick. And he wore cologne iirc. He was also bald. It didn’t feel right.This was the guy who ended up buying cdbaby and is doing quite well right now.

    2. fredwilson

      Ben Horowitz talks a lot about this in his book which is excellent. There are some valid reasons for that but many non valid reasons

      1. Laura Yecies

        It not only cascades it can lead to other “ism’s”. Ageism can cause bias against women as they may be focused on young children during the late 20’s and 30’s and want to start companies later. I have been concerned about ageism quite a bit and just wrote this post on it http://thekitchensync.co/20

      2. Alex Salkever

        He wrote about it very intelligently but I also feel like he buckets “old guys” as later stage employees. To me that’s not at all true. Some people are born as founders – they like the early stage. They like ideation and formation. And they have great ideas. I actually worry a little bit that Ben’s book cements the view that old guys only come in at the B-Round. And I asked Paul Graham a few years back (he didn’t know me – I was in the audience at an event) if he would recommend starting a company when you have a family, kids and a good job. He basically said, no. So I think the bias runs very, very deep. I appreciate that USV says they consider all ideas, regardless of age. I hope that will be reflected more broadly throughout VC because, to be honest, old people in the U.S. have a lot of the money and so founders in their age cohort may have useful insights into what their needs are. This is particularly true from a UX perspective, where most mobile UX is really hard on people that have less than perfect vision. Anyway, said my piece. Thanks for the post.

    3. ShanaC

      Which means you can get a deal on engineers who are not management when you are olderthe culture fit thing is BS – what if you are a young alcoholic? You won’t fit into many startups

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Are you kidding? Being in the same party scene as a founding team is a great way to get hired. There are lots of young chemically dependent people in startups these days.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          We are going to have some cleaning up to do.I think a lot about the support systems that need to be in place for when the crash and burn happens in the startup ecosystem. We’ve seen tragic glimmers of this already. Interested in some of the thoughts coming from Jerry Colonna and Brad Feld, et al.

          1. ErikSchwartz

            I suspect the start up crash will be a bit different this time. I see lots of people in the start up scene who are living WAY beyond their means. There’s a few people making a fortune and a lot of people spending like they are.Interesting story in the NY Post today (even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes). http://nypost.com/2014/03/2…edit: In the 2000 bubble the companies crashed before the lifestyles crashed, in this bubble the lifestyles will crash driving out workers but the companies will continue (albeit as small companies with low pay)

          2. ShanaC

            I was reading that article, and posted that I think a lot of startups founders look like that.What’s worse is that because this is the perception, more startups aim at feeding that lifestyle.(lets put it this way, I’m the only founder I know my age to scrub my own oven instead of calling exec or something similar)

          3. ErikSchwartz

            I think Uber is the poster child company for the person who wants to look richer than they are. There’s way too much of the current scene that’s about image.

          4. ShanaC

            Never taken uber. I feel like I’m the only one.

        2. ShanaC

          No, I’m not. I actually know of an engineer who was with the NSA who isa) under 30b) dry because he is an alcoholic.He’s super responsible, and knows tons about algorithms. If I had the cash, I would hire him. I don’t care if he doesn’t drink.meanwhile, I wonder about the short lifecycles of some of the more hard partying types.

        3. leigh

          Being chemically dependant is all the rage in Toronto #gomayorford

      2. gorbachev

        If I got a dollar every time one of the youngsters I work with is out half a day due to a hangover, I’d be quite rich by now.They’re lucky I’m not their boss. Heads would roll.

        1. ErikSchwartz

          On a Wednesday.

          1. gorbachev

            Hey, are you using a pseudonym??? You seem to know exactly what’s going on at my company.;)

        2. ShanaC

          ironically, the reason I am running behind schedule today has nothing to do with alcohol – I spent part of the night being responsible by cleaning my oven.There are responsible young people 🙂

      3. andyswan

        This is the opposite of true

        1. ShanaC

          My mother makes less now than she did at 37 on an hourly rate. She still programs. she’s in a freelance coop of such people. Many with a lot of great experience

    4. Andrew Hoydich

      I’m not sure if this is the “real issue” but it’s certainly an issueYeah ok…”culture fit” may be what they call it. But what is the reason really?It’s a fact that an older tech employee has more experience than a younger tech employee. This should make older employees more attractive in a sense – however do you think it’s possible there would be power struggles based solely on that fact?I can see a scenario where a younger employee has an innate disposition to hire younger employees because they won’t feel threatened by a more experienced employee thinking they know how to do something better than they young buck. And I see a scenario where an older employee doesn’t respect the younger employee with more authority because of their age & experience difference

  9. Brandon G. Donnelly

    All the more reason to take on big risks when you’re younger and just go for it. You’ve got time to bounce back and the industry is biased towards you.

  10. andyswan

    Sure high % of VC-backed companies have young founders. But there are good reasons for that:1) Lots more young founders throwing a lot of shit at wall….VC’s backing the very few that find something that sticks.2) Young founders more likely to need VC money.3) Young founders more likely to be stupid and give VC ride on rocket shipExample: At 23 I would have taken investment from 100’s of VCs and I assumed they were smarter than me.Now, in my 36’s, the list of venture capitalists that I would consider sharing my company with is literally about 6 names deep…. and I wouldn’t want them in for their $$, but for their brain.tldr young people are poor and stupid.Bonus tldr I am sure that I will one day look back on my 36’s as me having been poor and stupid.

    1. Emily Merkle

      amen.

    2. LE

      Lots more young founders throwing a lot of shit at wall….VC’s backing the very few that find something that sticks.Key point.and I assumed they were smarter than me.Corollary to that is the fact that young people see the situations where the stuff on the wall stuck and infer greatness and halo to those people and listen to every utterance that comes out of their mouth. [1][1] There are cases no doubt where people who have had success do know something that the person who hasn’t had it stick doesn’t. For one thing if you take Marc Andressen w/o Netscape success he is not Marc Andressesen. Why? Because after that Netscape success he was able to move in different circles and associate with an entire level of people (who enrich his brain) that wouldn’t be available if he had just graduated from UI and ended up working at Hewlett Packard.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Would Netscape have succeeded without Jim Clark?

        1. LE

          Do you mean specifically Jim Clark or a Jim Clark?To me it’s quite obvious that any person right out of school (or in school) wouldn’t succeed without the help of someone else that is older either providing money and/or knowledge.But the case of a super success like Netscape is a bit different than say, Danny Meyer and restaurants in NYC which was more “grind it out” in nature.And to tell you the truth it kind of pales in comparison to things like McDonalds, Fedex which became businesses that are still with us today. Netscape isn’t. It didn’t last very long. For that matter SGI (Jim Clark) fell as well and has gone through bankruptcy a few times.Netscape is the confluence of many things coming together just like Microsoft is as well (Gate’s mother, the right time, Bill’s capabilities etc.) Microsoft lasted of course. And cut off Netscapes air supply (I always like that one).I actually hate writing things like this. Because I realize that I can spin this any way I want depending on the point that I want to make.

          1. ErikSchwartz

            By Jim Clark I mean a “been there done that” co-founder in his 50s.As you alluded, netscape was a very ephemeral success.

          2. LE

            Also a 50 year old guy who makes big gambles which is a pretty important part of the end result.http://www.forbes.com/sites

        2. Jay Bregman

          Boom. But I think you mean *Existed*, not succeeded.

    3. fredwilson

      Smart comment Andy

      1. sigmaalgebra

        I saw those articles and the discussion at HN.Your post and Andy’s are better individually and,especially, jointly.

    4. ShanaC

      in your 36s?

    5. JamesHRH

      2 bromides:Two good times to startup: when you don’t have kids & when you are done with the kids.Experience doesn’t make people smarter, it makes them less stupid.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        I stupidly worked for a startup as a divorced single mom of a four/five/six year old when I was age 34-36. Smartest thing I ever did.(Though most people aren’t as crazy as me. Back then you had to be a little crazy to do something like that.)

        1. leigh

          I started my latest venture when my son turned two. He really digs my office though 🙂 so it’s all worked out just fine (well at least until his future therapist tells me otherwise)

    6. PhilipSugar

      I will add one other item. The older you get the less press you want. I know of at least a dozen companies that had very successful exits $20mm + with founders in their 40’s or later.

      1. Kamil Rextin

        Less of an ego and need for external social validation I guess?

        1. PhilipSugar

          I think you really just don’t want people knowing your stuff.

    7. john murphy

      Nice!

    8. Capitalistic

      Very good comment. Younger people need more money. I’m also 36 and at 26 I would have taken any investment from “smart VC’s”. Now I’m 36, in my second venture, and I’d only consider a maximum of 10 PEG’s to talk to.However, younger people tend to have crazy ideas. Crazy enough to become Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, etc.

    9. Vance Decker

      You’re right and wrong, unfortunately, despite adding little value in terms of brain matter VC’s add that extra element which attracts money and the right attention, just like Bernie Maddoff attracted investors from the good old boy network of washroom tips.Now Bernie was an anomaly, remember the absolute shock and horror that the investors experienced. It’s because mostly these types of ‘get even richer money mobs’ are one hundred percent assured of making you even more money.So, you might have a crappy idea, but if you have the right VC, and can keep from vomiting from all the BS they spew, you will be assured of at least a profitable gravy train into your IPO or buy out.

  11. Emily Merkle

    Tech is a young person’s ground game. Tender meat to fling at Madison Avenue; young minds and young bodies that can handle the mandatory travel/network/partying. Cheap labor, ’cause they don’t know it yet. Been there. I’m sure most of us have.Then you gain a little gravitas. Something changes in your step; in your game. You take the bigger meetings. You begin to speak publicly. You learn how to hire. You get the bigger picture. That’s when you strike out on your own. And fall down a couple times. It hurts, but you learn. And you love it. This should be the sweet spot for investment, mentoring, access.I would peg it a 35-45.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      What’s with the “Snook”? That’s new?

      1. Emily Merkle

        About 6 months. Actually got hitched 7 years ago, but never took his name for business identity reasons. I ultimately decided it would be a sign of respect.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Congrats!

          1. Emily Merkle

            Hey, thanks 🙂 only bummer is my driver’s license picture is not as fly. (small bummer)

        2. sigmaalgebra

          11 secrets: caring, commitment, affection,romance, intimacy, passion, faithfulness, respect,responsiveness, honesty, and trust. Too manypeople know only about passion, and they keepthe divorce lawyers busy,

          1. Emily Merkle

            How’s 8/11, plus intellectual compatibility and best friends-ness?Oh and laugh-till-you-pee-ness. 🙂

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Well, 8/11 is a lot better than the1/11, passion, that too many couplesconfuse with love. Those 11 are notall that are possible and good; laughtercan also help.

        3. ShanaC

          Mazel tov

          1. Emily Merkle

            Thank you, Shana. I felt naked at first without my birth name. But now when I make a reservation somewhere and they say, Snook? And I get to say: Yes, like the fish.

        4. Emily Merkle

          To be clear – one guy / one marriage / one obnoxious me.

    2. ShanaC

      I’m young and I hate all of that stuff. I do it, and occassionally I like it, but, too much alcohol does not make happy Shana

  12. Dave W Baldwin

    Keep the open mind!

  13. LE

    Not to mention the fact that when Kroc started McDonalds 52 was much older than it is today.

  14. gregg

    had to laugh that the graphic pegs midlife crisis at 35.seems like it’s a lot closer to 45 or 50 for me and my friends …after the non stop action during my 30’s and 40’s around career and family you finally have some time to take a step back and reflect / evaluate when the late 40’s hit … so not surprising some big winners were started by people in their 40s, 50’s and 60’s.with regard to the success of young founders it’s worth noting many of the truly successful ones have had experienced (older) people around them to support execution … zuckerberg / sandberg and page, brin / schmidt are a couple of obvious examples.

  15. andyswan

    I’m age biased as I prefer my bourbon to be a minimum of 12 years aged.

  16. LE

    Journal of “it depends on the situation”.USV and most VC’s typically have more situations that favor a young person I’m guessing. (By young I mean under 40 by the way..)Anyway on the above list though Noyce, Kroc, Harland Sanders all had a significant advantages in that they were not really betting on an unknown thing of the type that USV typically invests in. The fact that they were older and had the experiences that they did was good not bad.Contrast this with the types of bets that USV (or others) typically make. Many are (pardon the expression) “spray and pray” where it really takes a young person and their naivety and lack of family obligations and energy as well as the ability to work really long hours to pull off. I simply don’t think many of those ideas are wise bets for someone older with no money as a safety net. And I hate to see people in the latter category do this. (I’ve seen this happen even with some USV commenters by the way..)I think this comment which I read on HN pretty much sums up the situation as far as hiring at least:Second, look at it from an employer’s perspective. You can hire a twenty year old or a fifty year old. They have the same experience with whatever the latest thing is. The twenty year old has the energy of youth. No wife or children. He may come in hungover occasionally but with enough Red Bull he’ll bounce back by noon.The fifty year old is slowing down. He takes drugs for his blood pressure that make him tired. He has ailing parents and teenagers at home.Who do you think is going to be more productive? Who’s going to put in 16 hour days at crunch time?Look when I hired a lawyer maybe 12 years ago and found out he was single with no kids (he was in his 40’s) I thought “this is great he will be available at all sorts of weird hours and not going to his kids ball games”. (This wasn’t an employee by the way by just an attorney that I consult). Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have used him if he did have a family or kids. But I remember thinking it was an advantage. And you know what it was because he is generally always available for a call and on weekends. Otoh the realtor that I use for things checks out early on Friday and doesn’t answer emails. He is with his family. Oh well.That said I have kids and a family but since I work all the time (even on vacation) and have a supportive (2nd wife) that is totally onboard with how I roll I am always available as well. So for sure it depends on the person.

  17. rickbakas

    As a side note, Robert Mondavi started his winery when he was almost 60 years old.

  18. William Mougayar

    I think there is no fast rule on this. There has been teams that succeeded with just young entrepreneurs, and others with a mix, and some with older ones. I personally like the mix of older and younger, although younger entrepreneurs tend to be more fearless and take more risk, but that’s not even a fast rule, as it has exceptions.The only thing I would say is that for startups targeting the enterprise market, generally the success rates are higher when the entrepreneur has had some experience in that space, and that typically falls in the 35+ age bracket.

  19. Brian Kurth

    Spot on, Fred. Although it’s not my first rodeo being an entrepreneur, at nearly 48 (you can say I look younger and make my day…my week…hell, my month), I am more than likely embarking upon my first-ever angel funding round. When I go into Capital Factory here in Austin, it is often assumed I’m an investor/mentor. I love shocking folks when I say I’m part of the incubator’s coworking space. And I have to tell you, I’ve learned as much from my 20- and 30-something entrepreneur coworkers as I am peer-to-peer mentoring them about the business world.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I think there is great value in those of us over 40 embracing what we can learn from those in their 20s/30s. It makes a huge difference for me in staying relevant and open.

  20. Michael Koby

    Ageism is a really funny thing. Most people think it only happens to older people but at 34 I’ve been a mild victim of it in the past.Specifically I was just barely over 30 and I was working as a consultant (for a consulting agency) at a client, and my company had placed a manager above me. I was working a niche role, a developer on the QA team to help automate testing and to help the QA team communicate with the dev team. The manager was an older woman who would refuse to listen to anything I said until the managers on the development team (also from our consulting agency and whom I had worked with on previous projects) would validate them or make the exact same suggestions. Keep in mind I had been professionally developing software for 10 years at that time and had also spent time as a network, database admin, and even a QA person. So it wasn’t like I was new to the game.It was eventually discovered that it was due to both my age and position in the company that caused her to dismiss my ideas and comments outright. Fortunately for me, I had already won the respect from others in our company (including those on the project and the highest manager of our local office) and she was eventually told to listen and consider what I had to say, and that not doing so would come at a great expense to her.Ageism happens both ways. And for someone like me who’s been doing computers and programming for over half their life, it’s painful when managers and higher ups don’t trust us or our opinions simply because “well you’re young.” And not everyone in my peer group is going to be lucky enough to have co-workers and mangers that come to their aide.

    1. Emily Merkle

      It’s not so much that you’re “young”. It’s that they begin to feel threatened.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      My son, who is turning 37 this week, had same problem and you’re not alone. I had to have the “30 sucks” talk with him since so many middle age plus seem to think a 30 yr old is in their diapers. OTOH, they’ll sometimes half listen and steal your idea.

  21. Alejandro Cosentino

    General statements are OK for headlines and I´m sure that is totally true for many tech oriented business and not exactly true for others where experience counts when trying to disrupt some industries. Peer-to peer lending business, for example, required experencied guys if you don´t want to crash your business and other people money. Initially (and some still believe in) the wisdom of the crowd cherry picking the right loans to invest. I´m a firm believer that a good combination of young guys and gray hair living under the same roof is the right formula to win.

  22. JLM

    .There is a reason why when old men disagree, young men fight the resulting wars. It has nothing to do with patriotism.There is a reason why young men wear explosive vests and old men pick out the targets for them. It has nothing to do with the Koran or jihad.JLM.

    1. fredwilson

      Care to elaborate?

      1. JLM

        .Young people are tricked into dying for an idea that is not worthy of sacrificing their lives for.If the 72 virgins trade is so good, how have those old terrorists resisted the lure of such a good thing?Can you imagine spending the night with 72 women who know next to nothing about sex?Give me 6 New Orleans hookers any day of the week. One per day and rest on Sunday.JLM.

        1. fredwilson

          Got it. Loud and clear!

        2. David Semeria

          You’d never get to Sunday, JLM….

          1. pointsnfigures

            Only if that’s his first day.

          2. JLM

            .You totally misunderestimate the stamina of JLM.JLM.

        3. LE

          Where’s that whole virgin thing come from anyway? I’ve never understood why that is a big deal anyway. What did I miss? Where does that desire in men come from?Give me 6 New Orleans hookers any day of the week.I must have missed that lesson also. Never found that type of thing appealing in the least. While you may very well be joking fact is many men do like that type of thing.

          1. JLM

            .There was a house of pleasure in Paris when I was stationed in Germany. World renowned started before World War II.I was single, foot loose and fancy free. I was lacking in worldliness.The MPs had put it off limits for all Captains and Lieutenants. Apparently not for field grade and general officers. RHIP (rank hath its privileges).The rest will have to wait for another day…………………JLM.

          2. LE

            From the “journal of shit that happened back in the day” I remember my first girlfriend (she was 16) [1] being told by her father in front of me that “you smell like a French Whore”. [2]Today that would probably result in child abuse charges.[1] Who would know that I was breaking the law.[2] I speculate that the heavy perfume was needed not only to entice the John but also to make sure the John didn’t smell the other men that the whore had as customers.

          3. JLM

            .Further affiant sayeth not.JLM.

          4. sigmaalgebra

            > Where’s that whole virgin thing come from anyway?I’ll give you a relatively ‘traditional’ explanation. YMMV.So, what the heck is the real goal? Sure, in terms of E. Fromm, ‘The Art of Loving’, I paraphrase: For humans the fundamental problem in all of life is doing something effective about feeling alone. Only four responses have proven effective. The first is “love of spouse”. The last, not recommended, is getting drunk and/or high on drugs and having an orgy. The problem with the orgy is that in the morning have aftereffects from the alcohol/drugs and, in spite of all the sex, still feel alone. The advantage of the first is have a good solution for tomorrow, next week, month, year, decade, etc.E.g., as a couple once told my wife and I, “Having children was the most rewarding thing we did.”. Well, suppose have a tradition (traditions in a home make life more predictable and predictably happy and, thus, help people feel secure and happy) of a big time at Thanksgiving, have five kids, and get a divorce. Suppose the father has the kids for the next Thanksgiving and one of the kids, seeing the empty chair at one end of the table, asks, “Where’s Mommy?”. Really big, ugly, nasty bummer; one of the worst five seconds in all of life. Don’t want that.A divorce is like working hard for years to build a romantic relationship that is one of the main parts of a happy life and then burning it down. Bummer.So, want to do something effective about feeling alone, want love of spouse, want a family with lots of good traditions, and definitely do not want a divorce.Okay, now, for the man to pick his wife: A virgin, especially still in her teens, can help, a lot.Why? Well, traditional marriage vows start off “We gather together to join ….”. So, to have the romantic relationship last, want to be ‘joined’. Want to be joined just to ones spouse. If she was ‘joined’ to 50 other men before, then there is some question about how meaningfully she can be ‘joined’ to her husband. Next, to be ‘joined’, to help the joining work, want to use the physical joining of sexual intercourse (SI) as a metaphor, frequently confirmed and reinforced, for the joining of the lives more generally. And, don’t want her previously ‘joined’, with some previous lovers still in her heart, with scars in her heart from previous broken joinings, and, thus, making it difficult for her to be joined again.Further, traditionally men want the wife to be faithful so that he will not get stuck rearing a child of another man. Of course, there is less ‘symmetry’ here than might be first guessed since his infidelities cannot cause his wife to get stuck rearing the child of another woman. But if she had lots of lovers before marriage, then her husband might be concerned that she might be unfaithful during the marriage and, thus, have him get stuck.If she is a virgin, then she learns about SI just from/with her husband and, thus, is more satisfied in that she is not looking for something he doesn’t know how to provide. Also she is not comparing his ‘technique’ with that of some previous lover, a comparison her husband might lose and, thus, harm the marriage.Her first SI will be something she necessarily will remember for the rest of her life, and, thus, it is best for the marriage if that memory is with her husband instead of some previous lover. Or, one of the better ways to keep a marriage going is for the couple to have a list of activities, accomplishments, memories, traditions, and plans that grow each year and like a lot, don’t want to lose, and can’t get anywhere else and that, thus, serve to glue them together. Then one of the better such memories, can’t get anywhere else, is first SI.In such a romantic relationship, the SI is mostly just about her. Why? Because if he works hard, it can take him 30 minutes to make her as happy as possible during which time she might have a climax once each 15 seconds (the first girl I had SI with did that effortlessly) while, of course, being a man, he can have only one. So, we’re talking he works 30 minutes for her and she has 120 climaxes and in the last 10 seconds he has one.What does he get from it all? Sure: Heavily she is happy and smiles. He gets her smiles, including in the morning. Why is that good for him? Because it strengthens the romantic relationship and makes more certain in the future nearly everything desirable in the marriage.So for this 30 minutes that is nearly all about her with the main goal of making her smile, it is best if he is not competing with some previous lover of hers. So, it helps if she is a virgin.Finally, the man wants her young, say, still in her teens, for the same reason the military does; it’s much easier to lead her. That is, she promises less trouble from being wildly interested in “her own life” or some such marriage poison. And if she is a virgin at 30, then there may be something wrong with her.It’s tough to have a good life and a good marriage for life. To meet the challenge, want all the advantages can get. So, get her in her teens, as a virgin, cute, sweet, pretty, darling, adorable, precious, eager to fit in and please, etc. Then as inMaggie Scarf, ‘Intimate Partners: Patterns in Love and Marriage’.with foreword by Dr. Carol Nadelson, Past President of the American Psychiatric Association, with”Traditional marriage is about offspring, security, and caretaking.”If I had known all of this when I was 15, then I likely would have married my first girlfriend, then 13, that I had met 18 months before instead of walking away from her, after she made a mistake from being duped by her nasty cousin, like Lohengrin walked away from Elsa. She was cute, sweet, darling, adorable, precious, just loved children, and was the prettiest human female I ever saw in person or otherwise. Two months after I walked away from her (one of the dumbest moves of my life), she was a homecoming queen finalist and by far the prettiest of the candidates. I’m still in love with her, can no more forget her than I can forget my own name.Such is some of what I might put in ‘Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys’. Just 50 pages or so would have done me enough good. Just this post here would have helped.

      2. LE

        A young person is more likely to be idealistic and stupid and additionally they don’t view mortality the same way.But so are some older people.A relative of mine is an expert skier. But I’ve always viewed him as lacking common sense and maturity. But this relative is in his mid 50’s.Anyway he recently was using one of those iphone apps that you can measure your skiing speed on and apparently was racing and was going over 50mph on a double black diamond slope. (Is that possible?) It was the end of day and the terrain and bumps appeared flat because the lighting was poor. So on the last run [1] he wipes out and now he is totally out of commission and in severe pain and will need a major shoulder replacement and can’t work at all. It’s a bad situation but was preventable. Or maybe it was bound to happen with the risks that he takes. And getting injured like that at that age is no walk in the park.[1] Of course it was the last run they pulled him off on a stretcher.

      3. sigmaalgebra

        A common explanation of military trainingis that want to start with young men sincethey are desperate to fit into a group. Sothe training has them fit into their platoon,etc. Then they will do nearly anything forthe platoon, and the platoon is, now, asolid team. Older men see all that fittingin stuff as a threat, a good way to comehome in a body bag, and, thus, are harderto ‘train’.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I know I’m a bit of a romantic, but I do think of these startup founders as soldiers of sorts. Not quite as dramatic as what you describe but they are taking some hits for the rest of us.

      1. JLM

        .The correlation between startup entrepreneurs and Army 2nd Lts is very high.In combat, the survival rates are very similar.JLM.

  23. Sofia Fenichell

    This is a very interesting post. Thank you for writing it. I think we need to look at why entrepreneurship in tech skews young to understand the future.1. Early adopters of tech have to date been young. This is going to change as consumers become increasingly comfortable with technology and young people do grow up and continue to be tech super users. There will be more tech founders who are older as a result.2. Great companies have been driven by unique insights into the consumer psyche or problem solution set. Because the super users have tech have been young, the insights have focussed on the young. This will change as innovations in areas such as health, video and other focus more and more on older generations. Our new platform Wonder PL is trying to solve problems for our demographic. Curated access to quality, lifestyle content via an interface designed with different utility and aesthetic. Tech will mature and bring the audience with it. Young people may not have the insights to serve my demographic. The same goes for coding or building big data – experience counts for something. You can avoid mistakes if you’ve done it before.3. It’s hard work. VERY HARD work and difficult to balance kids, job etc etc. I think older people (40s and 50s) have as much energy as younger people physically – in many cases more. Some times we are also more focussed – priorities etc. But really the challenge is the challenge of working smart, not working longer hours. It’s about making great decisions with time allocation. I am not suggestion that is easy. But with mindfulness – it’s doable.I attach two blogs – one I wrote on how the collective consciousness of the Internet skews young and another on Medium (one of my favorite new platforms) on the topic of living. I hope they contribute to the debate in a constructive way.http://www.huffingtonpost.chttps://medium.com/p/cd87d2

    1. Donna Brewington White

      These are very interesting insights Sofia. I’m glad you raised these points. Look forward to reading the posts.

    2. ShanaC

      1 – not necessarily true. More true in content, but if you were looking for early adoption in tech for say dentists, I should introduce you to this oral surgeon I know(Hey, he’s a tech founder, he’s one of the reasons implants are becoming a much less specialized area of surgery since he helped create on of the first mainstream uses of 3d printing – teeth!)

    3. ErikSchwartz

      In school there were 2 kinds of people (at least in the circles I hung out in).There were people who started working after class/dinner/practice and finished their problem sets at 11 PM and went to sleep. There were people who partied until 11 PM and then finished their problem sets at 5 AM and always talked about how many all nighters they pulled and how hard they were working.Both groups worked equally hard. Lots of the start up people who talk about how hard they work are a lot like the latter group.Besides, nothing inspires you to work your ass off more than knowing that your kids are relying on your success.

      1. Sofia Fenichell

        I think the world has changed. We don’t ‘retire’ in the classical sense because the economy has changed and we are younger longer (in the physical sense). I think young people have less to lose and it means they can take more risk. Risk can deliver creativity. That is a good thing. Equally, we are learning that ideas aren’t in the money until you execute. Is execution age related, going back to the original topic? It is experience and intuition related. To be fair, the dentist described below could be 25 or 55. The point is, he either has great experience or great intuition. At the end of the day, relevance trumps all. xo

    4. JLM

      .What age brings sometimes is experience. Not always, sometimes.What experience brings figuratively is the ability to strike a square blow.More nails get driven by square blows even with a lighter hammer.Have you ever watched a really good old finish carpenter?He has a light touch and strikes square blows.JLM.

  24. ZekeV

    Aged people, themselves, also tend to have different biases than the young. For better or worse, many of the risks that I thought were acceptable in the 20s no longer seem worth it. Most of the time this is a helpful, life- and asset-preserving instinct for the individual. As a group it may mean fewer outliers amongst the aged (either de-selected from gene pool, or else learned to take fewer big risks). The trick is to find people who learn from experience how to take GOOD risks. Now that is a super-elite group.

  25. CheryEcerra

    This is not a rule, but it seems to be a valid observation. I don’t think its “Ageism” if VC firms find that the pool of good investment opportunities disproportionately skews young. On the other hand, if you were seeing a lot of 60 year old founders with great potential and were turning them away, that would be Ageism. But, I doubt that’s the case. http://kfc.io/rn

  26. jason wright

    today is the youngest you’ll ever be

  27. jason wright

    how does this post square up with yesterday’s post?do you get fewer young people (30+) applying for your MBA course, and have you ever considered taking one on?what’s been the median average age of your ‘students’?

  28. Clay Hebert

    Here are some more inspiring (mostly non-tech) examples, from @James Altucher’s excellent book, Choose Yourself:- When Colonel Sanders was twenty-five, he still had yet to be a fireman, a streetcar conductor, a farmer, a steamboat operator, and finally proprietor of a service station, where he sold chicken. The chicken was great and people loved it but he didn’t start making real money until he started franchising at the age of sixty-five.- Rodney Dangerfield didn’t didn’t succeed in comedy until his forties. One of the funniest guys ever, he was an aluminum siding salesman. And then he had to start his own comedy club, Dangerfield’s, in order to actually perform as a comedian.- Raymond Chandler, the most successful noir novelist of all time, wrote his first novel at age fifty-two. But he was young compared to Frank McCourt, who won the Pulitzer for his first novel, Angela’s Ashes, written when he was sixty-six. And, of course, Julia Child was a young fifty when she wrote her first cookbook.- One of my favorite writers of all time, Stan Lee, created the entire universe for which he is known—the Marvel Universe—when he was forty-four, inventing Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and others along the way.- If you like restaurant reviews you might have read Zagat, started by Tim Zagat, who quit his job as a lawyer in order to create the book of reviews when he was fifty-one.- Harry Bernstein was a total failure when he wrote his bestselling memoir, The Invisible Wall. His prior forty (forty!) novels had been rejected by publishers. When his memoir came out, he was ninety-three years old. A quote from him: “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book, God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.”- Peter Roget was a mediocre doctor who was finally forced to retire in his early seventies. Then he became obsessed with words that have similar meanings. Was his “purpose“ as a medical practitioner or as a guy who could play with words? Do you know him as a doctor or as the author of Roget’s Thesaurus, which he wrote when he was seventy-three?- To top it all off, there’s Henry Ford. He was a failure with his first car, the Model T, which he invented when he was forty-five. He didn’t yet have the productivity efficiencies of the assembly line. He developed those when he was sixty.Altucher, James (2013-06-03). Choose Yourself! (Kindle Locations 811-824). . Kindle Edition.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      This is inspiring!

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Great share. And here’s to all us Altucher fans 🙂

    3. Vasudev Ram

      I had read a book about Ford, maybe his biography, but it was a while ago. I thought the Model T was a success and the one that made car driving ubiquitous in America? Is that wrong?

      1. Clay Hebert

        That’s correct but the productivity efficiencies of the assembly line made it a commercial success. That came later.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Got it now, thanks.

    4. muratcannoyan

      Copied your terrific list to be viewed (and shared) at a later date 😉

  29. Michael Brill

    We need a Y Combinator for Generation X. Seriously, there is too much risk-aversion with older founders. For someone in their 20s to fail is a badge of honor; for someone in their 40s+… not so much. It’s a cultural double-standard that really should be rejected because there is a whole class of non-sexting products that aren’t being built by some really amazing people due to this fear of failure.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Fred posted a few years back something along the lines of how including more women in tech would expand the range of products created. He stated the case from the perspective of a capitalist. I think we have the same issue in terms of age/stage of life. It is most likely in the collective best interest to have a broader age range represented in tech.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Amen. Imagine combining experience, wisdom and a willingness to take risks. Who wouldn’t want that in a founder?

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Well, you would think so…

          1. Cynthia Schames

            And so would I! 😉

          2. Donna Brewington White

            And I!

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Just realized that this could sound like I am saying “YOU would think so…” rather than “One would think so…” (i.e., anyone in their right mind would think so…”)

    2. Guest

      I think for many in their 40’s it is less a culturally based “Fear of Failure” than a cash flow induced “Fear of Homelessness.” Mortgages, kids, aversion to instant ramen noodles, etc. can be a powerful deterrent for many.

  30. sigmaalgebra

    For investors, speculating on the best age for a founderis a bit empty. Why? Because mostly investors pay attention to the actual work actually accomplished so far.E.g., VCs really like ‘traction’. Before traction, mightwant to speculate on what age has the best chances ofgetting traction, but, if traction is the main criterion foran investment, then such prior speculation is idle. Ifthe traction looks good enough for a good investment,then write the check. If the founder is older with moreexperience, then they stand to make a better manager,e.g., already know lessons like those Ben Horowitzapparently had to learn the hard way on the way. Andif an older founder encounters problems due to age,then the usual VC terms permit the VC to choose anew CEO.

  31. JasonBoisture

    As many have pointed out here, risk is a young man’s game. This is true for entrepreneurs and investors alike, and is interesting to think about on wider scale.As the population ages as a whole, it follows that the overall appetite for risk declines. As a nation becomes more risk averse, it would seem that less money would be invested on average. If this is true about our nation, some would argue that the Keynesian policies of stimulus and artificially low interest rates will have an even harder time generating the intended effect of kickstarting the economy via investment than they have had to date.

  32. 3agonists

    Silicon Valley is adored and Wall Street is hated today. But it is worth listening to the investor who is old and wise enough (at age 68) to be in defence of luck: http://www.oaktreecapital.c

  33. iggyfanlo

    FWIW. I was in finance for 15 years; ad tech for 13 yrs, then founded my first company at 50; Lively… several folks told me that founding was for young people because they “thought outside the box having never been in it”… While I think that phrase is the only choice since very little thought happens “inside the box” (more explanation at a later time), I thought that you could take that idea one step further…What you ideally wanted was someone (maybe older, but certainly more experienced) who had tripped over the “generic bricks”, meaning those same problems that ALL startups face regardless of industry… so you get the experience, but then find that individual who wants to disrupt a space that they don’t have experience in… so that they are like “newbies thinking outside the box” within that industry but with the wisdom and experience of a seasoned veteran

  34. pointsnfigures

    the advance of tech, and dropping of cost is enabling a wider variety of people to utilize it. I am seeing older entrepreneurs solve big problems in vertical silos that they have a lot of experience with. Some will fail, some will be huge, some will be nice lifestyle businesses. The point is, the drop in tech costs, and the ease of applying it to new solutions opens up the universe to a wider variety of founders.

  35. pointsnfigures

    One of the things that older people can do if they do it correctly is mentorship. I tell older businesspeople that they may not know a lot about tech, but they know about cash flows, balance sheets, how to sell, how to choose a target market etc…..One 93 yr old told me once, “I don’t know anything about social media. I know that I tried to satisfy my customers, and they always brought me new customers.” I told him he knew more about social media than most people.

    1. LE

      I think the entire startup scene “shit at the fan” is antithetical to the thinking of an older person with experience in traditional business. AVC favorite Warren Buffet is perhaps an example but so is the guy running a small wholesale company or in manufacturing.The entire “we’ll figure it out later” just doesn’t gel very well with anyone who has been in traditional business. And for good reason since the majority of these ideas actually don’t work and don’t make sense.Now of course if we are talking about “air bnb” pass-over that’s a different thing. In that case the fogies might say [1] “why in the world would anyone want to let a complete stranger stay at their place”?. And it’s up to the young person to provide some kind of proof not just say “just trust me”. Problem is with many of these ideas there really isn’t proof at least not in terms of getting anywhere near profitability. And the sell to a greater fool is not a certainty either.[1] Like Fred I would never think airbnb would work. But otoh I wasn’t in the position to be presented with evidence or to ask questions to get by my initial bias. So really this all comes down once again to salesmanship.

  36. Richard

    One obvious reason for younger tech founders is younger tech (early) users.

  37. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I would expect to see the avg age of a tech startup founder to go up a little at this point. There’s a whole generation of people who were kind of the first wave of tech creators who are now ‘middle-aged.’ (Guilty, as charged, here.)They know where all the bones are buried 😛 I wouldn’t bet against them.

    1. Tess

      I’m middle aged too, but I would have never thought of myself as part of the first wave of tech creators — there were plenty that had been at it for quite a while even when I got started. 🙂

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Good point. I probably should have been more specific in my description. Something more along the lines of ‘webtech.’ I tend to think of the industry just in terms of the Internet because that’s my playground :)Like your avatar, btw!

  38. Donna Brewington White

    As someone involved in hiring I see pretty blatant ageism at startups. It is not mean-spirited and often it is in the sincere belief that hiring someone younger is in the best interest of the company and the culture. I think it must be hard to be philosophical when you’re in the middle of trying to keep a company alive. You just want to do what you think works. Generally speaking, as the CEO matures in the role and becomes more confident in hiring I see more open mindedness occurring.But then back to the larger issue of more founders in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc. which would hopefully diminish ageism in hiring at startups, except I’ve seen ageism perpetrated by the middle-aged as well.

    1. LE

      when you’re in the middle of trying to keep a company alive. You just want to do what you think works.Which is exactly what you should be doing. Not trying to serve some higher social purpose.Separately, companies always have to be kept alive. The minute you rest on your laurels, stop paying attention, or take things for granted is when things will potentially start to deteriorate. That’s actually one of the reasons that companies with older workforces in certain industries fail. Because the workforce gets lazy and complacent.

  39. lisa hickey

    I’m running a VC-backed start-up and I’m on the old side of young. And sure, there are lots of things I think I bring to the equation that young entrepreneurs might not — love of spreadsheets, calculating risks more carefully, management skills, leadership skills (and the wisdom to know the difference), years of business building in a host of different ways. Those should be obvious to most people.But the thing that interests me most about my age is actually the part that is usually held against me — the fact that I’m not a “digital native.”And I see that as one of my biggest assets.Why? Because I remember the day that someone called me into their office, shut the door and said. “Lisa. Have you heard of this thing called the internet?” And they introduced me to a new word: “hyperlinks” and took me through a few screenfuls worth of them. I blinked a few times and, cliche as it sounds, said “wow, this is going to be big.”And I can tell you with precise clarity just how much things changed from that day forward.Any entrepreneur worth his or her salt wants to create change. Big, sweeping, worldwide change. Change in behavior, change in thinking. Change in the way people communicate, the way they buy and sell things. The way they learn. The way they make things happen.And I can tell you exactly HOW the internet, e-commerce, google, twitter, facebook created change *because I saw it happen*.And that’s the type of company I want to build.THAT, more than anything, is what I bring to the table as a non-digital native. Oh, yeah, and the reason I’m a non-digital native is because I’m not young enough to be one. It doesn’t mean I don’t adore tech and all it can create. And if my age is a problem, I’ll just figure out a new way to solve that problem. After all, that’s what entrepreneurs do best.

  40. Matt A. Myers

    Sweet, I’m before that graph’s defined mid-life crisis point..

    1. Emily Merkle

      Dude, mid-life crisis is where it’s at.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Keeper, right there.

        1. pointsnfigures

          with advances in healthcare, we will live longer. Who knows where mid life is anyway?

  41. Steve Poppe

    Bias is human. Marketers use it to their advantage every day. So do entrepreneurs in the start-up space. We all just need to listen and learn from one another and make informed decisions…hopefully placing biases aside.

    1. Emily Merkle

      Bias is just another word for “preconceived notion”.

  42. Emily Merkle

    The first startup i ever worked for, I was fresh out of grad school and clueless.They put me in sales as I was well-spoken. A story still circulates amongst alumni: I was on a cold call and got a “no”. I said – Is that a no, call me next week? Is that a no, call me tomorrow? Is that a no, I can’t talk right now?I literally beat my head up against the wall for relatively peanuts, and made that company 6m my second year – when they promoted me to open a NY office and the world became my oyster.I was young. I was fodder. But I won.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Gee, so THAT’S how I should have answered”No” from all those girls!

      1. Cynthia Schames

        Reminds me of a funny scene in “Dumb and Dumber” where the girl says the guy’s chances with her are maybe one in a million. He’s like “so what you’re saying is, there IS a chance!”

        1. Emily Merkle

          Yep! That’s all I was looking for – a chance. Each and every time I picked up that phone to pitch a stranger a concept so new it was almost as if i were speaking gibbersh. Now it’s a multi-bilion $ industry. 2001.

  43. ShanaC

    Ironically – older people in some ways have a lot less to lose when starting a company.I also now feel overtly young here today

    1. Sofia Fenichell

      Be happy. You are both the present and the future! That’s a wonderful place to be.

  44. john murphy

    yup

  45. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Interesting to read all the comments below and where people stand on the topic. Ultimately, I think age is a state of mind and regardless of whether you are in your 20s or 50s – If and whenver you are bitten by the bug to create something you should do it. Today, I listened to a BBC podcast talking about a surfing club in Brazil for the seniors (people started surfing in their 70s!!!).

  46. Emily Merkle

    Baby Boom. Pitching a kitten bit-treat exchange to USV next week.

  47. takingpitches

    As software eats more of the world, you will probably see the median age skew further older too…

  48. SnapPost.com

    At the Founder Institute last summer, when I explained to my group what I do (buy stuff at thrift stores and sell on eBay) a 20yo exclaimed: “Oh, your like an eBay Granny!” At 48, I never saw myself as a granny. It was a major gulp moment for me.

  49. ConversationAgent

    Two more mature founders from my own region (Emilia Romagna) in Italy:1) Enzo Ferrari (Modena) was 31 when he started Scuderia Ferrari and 49 when he founded Ferrari S.p.A. — favorite quote “Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.” Fascinating story, if anyone likes car racing, and incredible times in design and manufacturing of performance engines, tires (Pirelli), etc.2) Giorgio Armani (Piacenza) formed his company at 41 – favorite quote : “Remain true to yourself and your philosophy. Changing in the face of adversity will in fact diminish your credibility with your customers.” His lines reflect the colors of our seasons, why I love the lines and compositions so much.Both invested in technology to create.

  50. Albert Hartman

    Would you back a football team with just quarterbacks? Or would you want to see depth in defense linemen, tackles, guards, wide receivers, etc. Age and youth are just ingredients. You need a full complement of strengths to make a capable team. If you’re talking just about a CEO, then pick the right one for the particular industry – new SDK tool vs new turbomachine.

  51. Twain Twain

    Age is a number, a quantity, a scalar count.Founding is a passion, qualities and factors of commitment to crafting solutions.I know someone in his 70s who founded the Italian equivalent of change.org (www.riparteilfuturo.it) in 2013 to give Italian voters a platform for political and social change.Meanwhile, I can trace the seeds and genesis of the Analytics system I’m building back to my teens — just as Jack Dorsey can trace his interest in dispatch updates back to when he was 13-14.It doesn’t matter when a founder puts into action the ideas that’ve been percolating inside their brains.What matters is WHY they decide to make the leap of faith to do it.

    1. Twain Twain

      Interestingly, Harrison Ford was 40 in the first Indiana Jones movie, 47 in ‘Last Crusade’ with the leap of faith from the lion’s head……And he’ll be 70+ when the fifth Indie movie is released.Well into his 40s, 50s and 60s he’s made $ billions for the investors at the studios.

      1. Tom Labus

        Armand Hammer started Occidental Petroleum 65 +. The Colonel KFC when around 70 (saw him on a plane and he looked liked he was eating a steady diet of KFC),

        1. Twain Twain

          Production of oil / fried chicken is different from production of code stacks and applications.The tools of production are different, even if the processes in their simplest forms are the same:Raw materials => Processing & packaging (make it more appealing) => Sell => Utility / happiness for the consumer.

        2. Twain Twain

          In the LinkedIn comments for this exact same graphic, some commentators wrote that KFC and others with older founders was non-tech and therefore not applicable.So I provided this link on LinkedIn as I do here:* http://www.businessinsider….I had the product idea for the ‘Link Up Scheme’ and launched it at university years before Zuckerberg’s TheFacebook at Harvard.10+ years before FB’s Timelines for social status updates, I had submitted a product proposal at the startup where I worked for a Timeline product to track Mergers & Acquisitions statuses.It’s only now, in my 30s, that I have the coherent vision-execution to do an idea which is factorially bigger and better than those two ideas I had in my late teens and very early 20s.

  52. JLM

    .I should have been elected President when I was a teenager.I knew everything in those days.All experience has taught me is how little I know. Now I am unable to wet a thimble to its belly button with experience; however, it is sometimes sufficient to guide me through a normal day.The biggest advantage of youth is not knowing what you don’t know.JLM.

  53. seth goldstein

    i am 43 now, and started djz (www.crossfader.fm) two years ago when i was 41. i started my first internet company in 1995 when i was 24 (along with scott heiferman who started i-traffic when he was 22, and is now running meetup). my pattern recognition is so much better now for having 20 years of failures/successes behind me. i used to manage people that were older than me. now i am surrounded by a team of 20-somethings. having kids (two boys ages 12 and 14) has also forced me to become a better listener and stop trying to control everything. i spent a couple of momentous years (1999-2001) working as a professional investor (with you fred), but ultimately decided that i needed to create product, not just advise others on how to do so. every time that i have tried to step back and become chairman or angel inevitably i find myself back at the storm front. no doubt this is a young person’s game, and i am working in an area — electronic dance music / iphone app — that is particularly skewed towards youth (versus something like enterprise security cloud blah blah blah). but when it comes to entrepreneurship, youth is something inside, not outside, and has more to do with an irrational desire to prove something, an unhealthy appetite for risk, and a messianic compulsion to turn an idea into reality, than it does with physical age. we have all met plenty of young college grads or recent mbas who talk the talk about starting something, but won’t pull the trigger unless they have x or y or z in place to do so. and then there are the grizzled, aging serial entrepreneurs like myself (and like gian fulgoni, mark goldstein, mark pincus, et al) who won’t sit still while there are big ideas to bring to market, regardless of how many comforts or conveniences others might recommend we settle into.“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” Godfather III

  54. Ryan

    Unless you strike it big as a young entrepreneur this is a problem that will affect all of us at one point. It scares me greatly that one day I will face ageism as a developer/entrepreneur. My team at RadiumCRM (http://www.radiumcrm.com) has a diverse group of designers/developers (20s to 40s) and the most skilled person on the team is the oldest member, you know the way it usually works.I realize it will take time to combat the startup “culture” but it needs to be fixed.

  55. martin

    After graduating, at 23 in 1981 w/ an MSc / I.S. & BComm, I had a rough time getting that first job out of school because, employers were looking for people with Experience. Now having been in business since I quit the corporate job to launch my first company at 28, I finally got creamed in business about 10-15 years back due to what I would call unethical behavior which I have subsequently seen way too much of during my career. Since that time, it’s not been easy. I too sometimes sense the feeling that the 178 people here (so far) are commenting on and it’s completely stupid. The key in any business is to put together a team of people that efficiently and effectively get the job done and to make sure that the best person for the position is hired. Employees from the top down to the lowest level, need a balance between their job and their personal lives and more than the average need to learn to sincerely respect all who approach them in and outside of their work. Personally I think the corporate world in North America is broken and there is way too much arrogance and disrespect in these corporations and society at large. When I read all that is here, and see some of the postings on social networks, how people act in public and in private (ignoring emails, hiding behind voicemail – never responding etc. unless it suits Them) I am convinced of it. It’s too bad because the right team, with the right attitude can sometimes beat the arrogant all stars. I know, I’ve been there in sport and and in business on many occasions. Respect can often bring out so much more than the respected person may even know they can deliver. I have seen this too with others (my employees) and even from myself. Too often, people bash others to succeed to the detriment of the organisation. Good management (or coaches) should be looking to reduce this as much as possible for the reasons stated here and focus on the results they are after – just put together the best teams they can, regardless of age, sex etc. and do their best to ensure they are operating at maximum efficiency like a well tuned engine.

  56. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

    “I think we would back a founder in her 60s or 70s too but we have not yet had that opportunity in an investment that made sense to us.”I wouldn’t “back a founder in her 60s or 70s”, but I might well back a promising business that had a founder in that age range. I know you say “we invest in the people and/or the team”, but really, it’s about the business that the team is creating.

  57. Semil Shah

    Founders and age is just one piece of it. Many people have to deal with this for jobs and even in venture, often for structural reasons related to one’s career.

  58. awaldstein

    Unclear Fred whether your post inspired me or nudged me look at age as the elephant in my room.Regardless, it got my attention:Ageism and categories of irrelevance http://awe.sm/hJkPQ

  59. Murray McKercher

    Fred, excellent post. I would vote for you as one of the top 50 over 50.

  60. American Cannibal

    I finally found my keys 3 days after turning 51.

  61. awaldstein

    I wake up every day, look in the mirror and see myself exactly in the middle of life.Best working lie I know of.

  62. fredwilson

    I did a fast best guess version of that in response to a comment below. Its near the end of this thread

  63. awaldstein

    I’m running with it hard my friend.Life is 20 years longer and it’s all is at the end so being in shape and healthy is the name of the game.See ya at the gym!

  64. jason wright

    where’d you buy that mirror?