Age of Founders

There is general consensus in the startup ecosystem that the optimum age of founders is from 20 to 30. Big influencers such as Mike Arrington plant this belief even deeper by comparing startup founders with professional athletes that pick around 27. A number of VC firms won’t even consider older founders irrespective of their proposal and every accelerator / incubator program has a question relating to the age of the founders.  If you are above 35, everyone seems to be marking a big minus in your overall proposal.
The real reasons why this consensus was built are quite straightforward. Enthusiasts and even professionals get most of their information by reading the press around startups.  And the majority of news on startups covers B2C companies because

  • There are more of them
  • Their ability to scale is bigger than any B2B company, therefore their potential for generating profit is theoretically larger, which makes them instantly more interesting
  •  But most importantly, B2C companies make stuff that we can easily understand by definition. The press and blogosphere is comfortable covering them because you can make an easy-to-read story about the new photo sharing app rather than the new assembly line optimization app.

In this particular segment of companies, younger founders seem to be the norm because they are perceived (I stress the perceived and not are) to

  • be more committed
  • understand the Internet and generally the consumer better
  • be more open to risk
  • need smaller funds to start-up since their living expenses and overall needs are smaller

However, worldwide the majority of companies both in terms of revenues and in terms of absolute count are B2B companies. B2B companies are not very sexy for the blogosphere because they deal with vertical technologies, and you need a lot of context to understand what they are doing.  And a typical B2B company has revenues in the order of few millions so nothing very interesting to cover.
When it comes to a B2B company an older group of founders is better suited because

  • you need a sales team (yes, with real sales people not subscription pages). To build sales relationships you need years of experience on a certain field. Why? Because selling means that others trust you and trust takes time to build.
  • you usually need intellectual property or deep knowledge on a particular vertical. And this takes time to build.
  • You won’t see a hockey-style growth in a B2B company. You need to be persistent through the tough times and not lose the focus on your vision. And this (growth) takes time to build.

Next time, you hear a story about the age of founders you know one thing for sure. They are far more likely to be a B2C company. And that’s all you can know about this company.



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