Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I bet you’ve seen them in the magazines. The young entrepreneurs, usually about 25. Bright. Converse on their feet. Cocky. At the height of the Internet bubble, they were the toast of the Valley and world. They possessed a certain bravado and were determined to make millions before they turned thirty. Some of them did. Most didn’t. But the ones who survived, like the creators of Google, helped turn living-room startups into billion-dollar companies. They amassed enough wealth to retire without a worry and decide what kind of life they want at 30.

These entrepreneurs defy the statistics; the research that states only the top quartile of entrepreneurs make more wages than their corporate-employed counterparts and that 75% of business owners would be better off financially with a good old regular job. Still, it is not the ability to make enormous sums of money that I marvel at, but the ages at which they begin. These entrepreneurs are 'mother’s-milk-in-my-face still young', and it raises a whole set of questions for many as to when is a good time to start a business.

I started my own branding and communications firms at age 29, and I will tell you if I knew back then the necessities for starting-up, I may not have taken my leap of faith. I didn’t have a network. Certainly no real business experience and no wealth of any kind to bootstrap my business. The only thing I had was optimism and the ability to live like a minimalist, with Crix and coffee at every single meal.

I subsequently read the best predictor of entrepreneurship is not age, not income, not wealth, it is ability. Oddly enough, think of a U shaped curve. People with very low and very high in ability tend to start companies. The middle usually stays put. Here’s what I read from a research paper on the issue:

We hypothesize that individuals with very low ability are more likely to take up self employment. These individuals may simply lack the discipline to work under someone else's authority, or in teams. They may also compare their low positions in their organizations and their low remunerations with those of higher ability individuals with similar human capital, and feel frustrated at the difference. They would thus be tempted to strike it out on their own. It is an empirical question whether their self-employment income would be higher than their paid employment income. On the other hand, individuals with very high ability are those with high energy levels, who get things done, who have strong interpersonal skills, and who are creative problem solvers. These individuals may feel that, in spite of their above average remuneration, they can do better on their own. This is because they have to share with their principals a substantial percentage of the value they contribute to their organizations. Finally, individuals of average ability are likely to be compensated in line with their human capital - they are therefore less likely to search for self-employment opportunities.

I knew on what side of the curve I stood from very early on, what I didn’t know was age can bring:

Money - It helps to have assets.

Connections - By the time you are 38, your friends and co-workers will have switched companies, changed jobs, and moved up the corporate ladder so there is easier access to decision makers and the people neded to help you get your business off the ground.

Wisdom - You don't have to learn or invent many of the standard processes .

Patience - You learn how to wait for the pitch that is in your business' capacity.

Still, as I grow older in the business and trade one set of skill sets for another, I recognise that age has less to do with success in business than opportunity and perseverance. Spend some time looking for the right opportunity to hitch your entrepreneurial star and watch your chances of success improve.


Anonymous said...

You say you want to know what next? Get with me... I'm 26 and I'm bringing the concept of corporate art consulting to Trinidad in a unique and entertaining way, effectively seducing and charming and developing rapport with customers through art and well chosen images and gifts. The name of my company is M.Boyd Designs and Concepts....
You heard of it first on the Judette Coward blog.

IABC - Trinidad and Tobago Chapter said...

Good for you Mr. Boyd.