“There are no entrepreneurs over 40,” I stated.
I said this over 20 years ago. The people I observed starting companies were in their late 20s to late 30s. This made sense to me. The people in this age group have a dream for greatness and the experience and drive to achieve it.
Their families are at just the right age. Their kids haven’t yet hijacked the household schedule, and they have the industry, management, network, and insider knowledge to create something great, something sustainable. These were many of the companies I invested in through my forties.
What I Didn’t Expect
Entrepreneurs starting great companies in their 20s and 30s is still happening today. But there is something else happening which I didn’t see 20 years ago.
I am seeing people in their 50s and 60s becoming entrepreneurs for the very first time. These are baby boomers with energy, drive, and determination.
The companies they dedicated their lives to may be done with them, but they are not done dreaming, doing, and achieving. The current glow of startups is encouraging this older demographic, and I think it’s great.
Helping a New Entrepreneur
I was at lunch with Ben Dyer the other day. Ben is one of the most accomplished entrepreneurs I know. He has dedicated his life to building something from nothing, and he helps others do the same in his consulting and blogging.
Ben is in his late 60s and has started at least five companies. This guy is a certified entrepreneur in my book. I’ve known him for 35 years, and he never drew a paycheck. Never. Now he is helping first-time entrepreneurs start and build their businesses.
“So who are you helping?” I asked.
“I am working with two new startups. One is a data-driven company which matches cancer patients with the latest clinical trials. It was started by a surgical oncologist in his late 60s.
“The other is a data-driven company which links behavioral data with physical rehab data to speed the recovery of injured athletes. The founder of this company is a retired healthcare exec in his late 50s.”
Then he asked who I was helping. To my surprise, part of my answers were almost the same. I am working with six entrepreneurs. Three are in their mid 30s to early 40s, but the other three are in their mid to late 50s.
Two in this older group started companies in the past but did not get to the big exit. The other had a successful exit and is doing it again.
Twenty years ago, I never saw this kind of activity. It is a phenomenon caused by our startup times and baby boomers still wanting to build and achieve.
New Market is Old(er)
Ben sized up the problem for the entrepreneurs with whom he is working. He said, “There is plenty of education in universities and incubators for how to start a company. But there isn’t much support for these senior entrepreneurs.
“These men and women want to start a company and don’t know how to do it. From how to incorporate to achieving product-market fit, they need experienced help.”
The entrepreneurs I am working with in this age demographic know how to start companies. They want me to help them build the value in the business while reducing the risk of their major decisions.
I also act as a sounding board for their ideas, product-market fit, and timing. Most importantly, I am a confidant, coach, and friend.
I told my friend about a video another friend sent to me out of the blue. At first, I thought it was interesting but didn’t pay much attention to it. It was a TED Talk given by a man named Paul Taser. He is 72 years old.
In the TED Talk, he tells how he was laid off a couple of years ago. Not ready to stop working, he had an idea. He built that idea into a successful company. Now he is promoting entrepreneurship for the over-70 crowd. Crazy, I thought.
What Do You Think?
“It looks like we found a market niche,” Ben said.
“We help baby boomers start and build the company they always dreamed of,” I said.
He agreed. We left the lunch that day both realizing there was a market need and we are uniquely experienced to meet this need. We agreed to do a bit more research. He encouraged me to not let this go.
I later received an email from him on the subject. He suggested a name for this market. He wrote, “We may be on to something with the Colonel Sanders startup club. Let’s keep that idea going.”
What do you think? Are you one of these baby boomers with a dream but not sure where to start?