I read both Inc. and Entrepreneur Magazines every month, cover to cover. I also keep up with several popular startup-related online discussions and blogs. Clearly a new “age of entrepreneurism” has been gaining strength for about a year, primarily in reaction to the lack of available employment. The word on the street is “this is a good time to start a new business” and for the most part I’ve found this to be true.
The focus on these entrepreneurs, however, has been highly skewed to a young generation of 20-somethings. For example, I read an article in Inc. recently about a company called Y Combinator which is essentially an aggressive startup incubator in (where else) Silicon Valley. It provides seed money, office space, equipment, and mentoring to about 40 new businesses a year. This is an interesting, even admirable, mission for a company to have. Y Combinator takes a small equity stake in the startup, and ultimately gets it to the point where it has something to sell. It then helps get VC money, or leads for possible acquisition. Some of these startups have been purchased for millions within a year after launch. There was a two-page spread containing a photo of the Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham, and a dozen or so of his “favorite” past startup founders, all young men. Not a single woman and not a single entrepreneur over 30 (Ok maybe there was one). I won’t even mention the somewhat-creepy similarity to a certain famous painting about a supper from 2,000 years ago.
Until this morning I had no idea what my post today would be about, since nothing that happened this week was really worthy of an even remotely interesting blog post. And then I read this article in the Baltimore Sun about Baby Boomer Entrepreneurs. I so enjoyed reading this article, that I decided to develop a list of reasons why a more senior, experienced person would have a good chance of succeeding at a startup.
Top Ten Reasons Why Baby Boomers Make Great Entrepreneurs
- Baby boomers have solid business-related skills, honed over many years of performing increasingly complex tasks, probably in several different companies.
- They have good coping skills and have developed thicker skins and better strategies for dealing with difficult people and situations.
- They have good credit, having owned a few homes, several cars, and put kids through college. This will make it somewhat easier for them to get a business loan if needed.
- Baby boomers have more personal financial resources, having built up cash reserves, investment accounts, pension funds, and possibly real estate equity. All these assets can be used or borrowed against.
- Many of these folks are either retired or facing retirement from their current jobs, but they don’t want to stop working. They have time and the ability to pay their living expenses independent of their business profits (or initial lack thereof).
- They have a large circle of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances among whom they can either find investors or get referrals for potential investors.
- That same network will help spread the word about the new business and generate prospects.
- Baby boomers generally have well-developed communication skills and can articulate their business goals and objectives better, both verbally and in writing.
- They are generally well-read and well-informed, giving them a good sense of current trends and economics. This provides a good stage from which to launch a viable product or service.
- People with more experience have a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, how to leverage their skills, and where to go to fill in the gaps.
- (Bonus Reason: They can get their kids to work for free, and they have access to an endless supply of interns with their friends’ kids.)
Personally I’m on the younger end of the baby boomer train, having been born at the end of 1960. I started my first business in 1998 when I was 38. Now, 10+ years later, I am starting my second full-time business, and have since compounded my experience to such a degree that I feel well-equipped to handle the upcoming bumps and bruises I am sure to get with this new venture. Imagine where I’ll be in *another* 10 years.
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