Pop quiz: What's the perfect age to start a business? The answer will surely intrigue Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers -- especially as the three generations navigate each other in the rapidly evolving IT and business landscapes.
Turns out, any age is ideal to get started -- as long as you actually act on the itch to launch the business. Of the U.S.-based small businesses started in 2013, roughly 25 percent were launched by 30-39 year old CEOs or founders. But all age groups actually enjoy healthy representation across the startup landscape, according to a survey by Kauffman/LegalZoom.
And therein resides the lesson:
- There's never a perfect "age" to get started.
- There's never a perfect "economic setting" to get started.
Far more importantly, you've got to find the courage to act on your idea. Many of the world's most successful companies launched during weak economic environments (Apple in 1976, for instance).
Entrepreneurs also tend to act fast. Roughly 66 percent of startup leaders launched their within a year or less of formulating the business idea. And when it comes to length of industry experience ahead the company launch, startup leaders were all over the map. Twenty percent had less than a year's worth of industry experience under their belt before starting the business, while 42 percent had 10 or more years of industry expertise.
But don't forget: Experience can be both a blessing and a burden. The more you know about an industry, the more likely you will potentially fall into classic business model traps -- doing things "the old, established way" rather than delivering disruptive ideas.
For me, each disruptive wave got bigger as I grew older. During the 1990s while in my 20s, I was on magazine launch teams designed to disrupt traditional IT markets. What we didn't often realize at the time was that we weren't disruptive enough. We had great new content ideas -- but they were delivered on largely traditional platforms (print magazines rather than online).
By the 2000s when I was in my 30s, I finally had the skill set and a business partner (Amy Katz) to co-launch a complete online business. Generally speaking, we realized that our revenue model would generate one-tenth the revenues of established, rival IT media giants. But we also knew our model would deliver 10 times the EBITDA. In theory, we could grow to become a $3 million revenue business but generate the same profits as a $30 million revenue business. We launched that business in 2008, sold it in 2011, grew it some more under the new owners, then exited in early 2014.
Fast forward to the present. We're nearing 2015. I'm in my mid-40s and Amy Katz is... well... a bit younger but now in my same decade club (sorry, Amy). We're taking a hard look at potential business models and opportunities. We don't really care (at least not very much) about economic forecasts, our age, nor about potential rivals.
Our obsession is pretty simple: How do we get as close to our customers as possible? I suspect no matter your generation (Millennial, Gen X or Boomer) you're focused on that same challenge and opportunity.
Just don't let anyone tell you that you're too young or too old to get started. The perfect time to start a business is the moment you say, "It's time to get started."
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