Mature Age Entrepreneurs Rule!

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I was reading an NPR article titled ‘The Aging Brain Is Less Quick, But More Shrewd’ by Michelle Trudeau about older brains:

“The area of the brain that showed the increases was the frontal lobe, the thinking brain, especially in areas that control decision making and working memory,” Small says. One interpretation of his findings, he says, is that with practice, a middle-age brain can very quickly alter its neuron-circuitry, can strengthen the neuron circuits that control short-term memory and decision making.

I disagree that everyone’s middle aged brain is slow, one of the gifts that I have always had is a quick starting brain.  Possibly others have other gifts?

It’s interesting that articles often come in groups (like buses) because I had just read an interview with  Barbara Strauch author of “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind,” in a New York Times article The Talents of a Middle-Aged Brain by Tara Parker-Pope.  She brings up a few interesting points about the advantages of an older brain compared to a younger brain:

Inductive reasoning and problem solving — the logical use of your brain and actually getting to solutions. We get the gist of an argument better.  We’re better at sizing up a situation and reaching a creative solution. They found social expertise peaks in middle age.  That’s basically sorting out the world: are you a good guy or a bad guy? Harvard has studied how people make financial judgments. It peaks, and we get the best at it in middle age.
What we have by middle age is all sorts of connections and pathways that have been built up in our brain that help us. They know from studies that humans and animals do better if they have a little information about a situation before they encounter it. By middle age we’ve seen a lot.  We’ve been there, done that. Our brains are primed to navigate the world better because they’ve been navigating the world better for longer.
There also are some other physical changes that they can see. We used to think we lost 30 percent of our brain cells as we age.  But that’s not true. We keep them.  That’s probably the most encouraging finding about the physical nature of our brain cells.

I noted when I pitched at TheFounded.com Showcase in January that the winner had a fascinating technology (which I have actually forgotten now – must be the middle aged brain!), we were all seduced & voted for him.  However he had no business model or earn revenue.  Another shiny toy with no staying power or meeting a need by the public???  Vivek Wadhwa over at TechCrunch also wrote a post last year When It Comes To Founding Successful Startups, Old Guys Rule (Note that I had chosen my title for this article before finding this post).

I have a few theories about why VC’s favor the young. First, VC’s tend to travel in herds. For the last decade, the herd has been all about the Internet. And Internet startups require a lot less sophistication and coordination than, say, a telecom gear startup, an enterprise software startup, or a biotech startup. Everything from the product development processes to sales processes are far more complex for these types of products. I also think that in its Web 2.0 infatuation, Silicon Valley has probably funded a huge number of companies that are really features and not companies. It’s very easy to build a feature and call yourself a CEO. It’s much harder to actually grow a company, something that, according to my research, old guys appear to be better at.

Secondly, and this is speculation but I have some personal experience in this area. Younger CEOs are probably easier to push around. Wet-behind the ears and inexperienced, young CEOs are probably far more likely to sign onerous term sheets out of sheer gratitude for getting funded. Old guys know better than to sign a term-sheet loaded with a nasty double-trigger option acceleration that would consign the founders to indentured servitude for years after a liquidity event.

Lastly, it could be that VC’s share Schmidt’s stated belief that young entrepreneurs don’t like the hassles of running big companies so they’ll let VC’s bring in adult management. I don’t know if this is the reality, but I do know that the old guys are different. A paper by my team, which the Kauffman Foundation will publish this month, finds that only about a quarter of the (old) founders of the venture backed companies we surveyed ranked the advice of their investors as really important. (Nearly all valued the money, though). So VC’s may be just going where they think they’re most wanted or where they can most easily have their way.

Even Fred Wilson at A VC wrote a post The Mid Life Entrepreneur Crisis who seems to think that mid life is around 30?

Nine of our eleven entrepreneurs are in their 30s. One is in his 20s, and one is in his 50s.
That says to me that prime time entrepreneurship is 30s. And its possibly getting younger as web technology meets youth culture.

However BusinessWeek have an article (that is more accurate about where the mid life actually resides) Entrepreneurship: The New Mid-Life Crisis by Nick Leiber:

The study found that over the past 10 years, most company founders were between the ages of 55 and 64. This goes against the stereotype of the college drop-out entrepreneur á la Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

Any society that discounts their mature population, are at risk of losing the plot and the experience & wisdom that this sector offers business.  We are left at risk of becoming a virtual society which is not grounded in reality.  Business needs good models to earn revenue, models that are ethical & benefit the community along with the business.  I often think that I would never want to be 20 again know what I know now!  And there are many of us out there!Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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Pemo Theodore

Pemo Theodore is a Media Publisher & Event Producer and a great people connector.. She is Founder/CEO Silicon Valley TV which has served the San Francisco Bay Area for 11 years! She has produced Silicon Valley Events for Investors & Startups for 9 years. Pemo loves to video interview venture capitalists & founders to engage the human behind the success stories.. She has been Executive Producer of FinTech Silicon Valley for 5 years, organizing twice monthly FinTech talks & panels in San Francisco & Palo Alto. She believes in learning through a great discussion with experts in the domains. Pemo has a talent to bring the right people together and is an incredible networker. Pemo's events have been seen as supporting Venture Capitalists & Angels in sourcing great deal flow from startups who attend her events. Many founders have received funding through meeting investors at her events. Her favored medium is audio & visual media and she has built up a great body of work of podcasts & videos of panels & interviews in Silicon Valley.startup ecosystem.

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Written by Pemo Theodore