If someone says ‘startup founder’ to you, chances are that you’ll immediately think of a 21-year-old kid straight out of college, looking to change the world with a photo-sharing app.
While that stereotype is a stereotype for a reason (there are lots of people who fit that mold), there are plenty of older people who become tech entrepreneurs after long and successful careers in more conventional lines of work.
What made people aged 40+ take such a big change of direction in their lives? And was it worth it? Is not fitting the stereotype an advantage or not? I decided to find out.
Read on; it might convince you to make the jump, too.
Age 47. Based in Nottingham, UK. Co-founder of Cocoon.
I used to be with Trend Micro after the startup I worked for got acquired by them. Like a lot of men in their mid-40s I started to think about the themes of my life and decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It’s the same motivation that leads men to drive across the US on a motorbike.
I had ideas for my own startup project but the Cocoon team was forming at the same time and I ended up joining as a cofounder. We’ve taken the project first to crowdfunding and on to our first funding round.
Has your age affected your life as a startup founder?
It’s helped prepare me for not being worried about my capabilities in scaling the company. I know what company I want to build and know what kinds of things I need to consider while doing it. That’s because of the experience I’ve gained through my career as I’ve gradually increased in seniority.
People are relatively open minded about my age. When we meet people, they’re not always sure who’s in charge. The oldest person on the founding team isn’t necessarily the most senior or experienced, as you might expect.
The hard part is walking away from a steady job. I’ve got three kids. It’s only been possible to become an entrepreneur with deep support from my partner.
What would you say to someone thinking of moving from a steady job into entrepreneurship?
Longterm happiness is important. With a strong relationship you can put your collective happiness on the line because you’re in it together. You have permission to fail – you can take that step into the unknown because someone is there to pick you up if you fail, with the understanding that you’ll do the same for them.
Give yourself a window of time to explore your entrepreneurial plans and have a plan B and plan C ready for if you haven’t made enough progress after that time is up.