How old is a good founder?

12 Oct, 2017

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I remember reading an article in TIME that said successful start-ups are almost twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as those 20 to 34.

Firstly, that’s a massive difference.

Secondly, what chance do I have starting something being in that middle bracket not mentioned? Damn it.

I’ve worked or been around several start-up ‘ecosystems’ in London, San Francisco, Chicago, Sydney and Brisbane and there’s not a whole lot of 60 or 70 years olds walking around. Trendy millennials having their 4th coffee at 10am desperate to build their business is more the scene.

But last night I attended a dinner put on by one of our investors (the awesome team at Right Click Capital) for emerging tech companies in Brisbane, and I was astonished at the demographics. I was one of the youngest people, and being in my late 30s working in a tech company that calls me “Grandpa” I’m sorry to say, but it was a wonderful feeling. What was even better was I got to talk to people that immediately inspired me on what they were doing, and they didn’t talk about being a ‘startup’ — they just spoke about rolling their sleeves up and building a business. Their stories usually included the prior 20 years of knowledge they had built up on why their problem needed solving. It was awesome.

A week ago I attended the AI Summit in SF and listened to Thomas Siebel from C3IoT talk about his business. A startup by most definitions, but it’s valued north of 1 billion and they’ve raised several times for a total around 120M USD. He was inspiring. He is a bit of a legend in the tech space and his prior work since the mid-80s is amazing. What they are doing now is genuinely awesome.

So it got me thinking. Are startup communities not really reflective of the startup scene? Are the older, driven and experienced founders just getting it done and not going to co-working spaces, which are seen as too trendy or simply for younger groups?

Do we need to encourage older founders to go to these places more so younger founders can soak up their experience faster? How can we do that?

I’ve also loved seeing people online like Josiah Humphrey, a mid 20s CEO whose team now is around 400 people, grow and share their experience without fear — he just wants to grow, improve and create.

And that’s the secret.

Experience. However you get it, it’s about getting it fast and learning from your or importantly, other’s, mistakes.

We make mistakes all the time at our company, but we own them and continue the research. We learn, change and move forward. We try and read as much as we can and now I know Brisbane has experienced founders hiding in the woodworks I’ll be hitting them up to learn directly from them too.

When we talk of diversity, I think we need to encourage these founders to come to startup communities, as their business experience is invaluable to share.

Shameless promotion to end — our company (and my CEO/Founder is in her 30s too — the legendary Sandra Mau) were pipped against some big names for the Best AI Startup award at that AI Summit I mentioned and took out first place! If I can pass on any lesson there it’s to have faith in the judges as I was sitting back soaking up the amazing minds around me, fully expecting them to pick a heavily funded venture. When they read out our name it was pure gold.



Cameron Mitchell
TrademarkVision COO