When it comes to building a successful company, most investors and business advocates look for companies with an experienced management team. They want someone that has a “successful track record” with experience forming teams, writing business plans, building products, and managing a P&L.
You can’t blame them. As with almost everything in life, practice makes perfect and experience provides learning lessons that allow for improvement and growth. While betting on experienced batters can certainly produce doubles, triples, and even home-runs; the grand slams of entrepreneurship come from the young and ill-experienced 20-somethings.
Yes, I said it.
That’s not what you’re going to read in the textbooks. You won’t hear that from a venture capitalist. And, you certainly won’t hear that in your MBA classes.
(Some of the) Most Successful Entrepreneurs of our Time and Their (Age):
- Founders of Google: Sergey Brin (25) & Larry Page(25)
- Founders of Apple: Steve Jobs (21) & Steve Wozniak (26)
- Founders of Microsoft: Bill Gates (20) & Paul Allen (22)
- Founder of Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg (20)
- Founder of Wal-Mart: Sam Walton (26)
Anyone else recognize the pattern? Each one of the founders was between the ages of 20 and 26 when they founded what turned out to be one of the most successful companies of our lifetime.
20-Somethings Have Nothing to Lose
One of the main reasons that young entrepreneurs can build incredibly successful companies is that they really don’t have anything to lose. Most of these entrepreneurs are used to living in a cheap college apartment and eating ramen noodles. At that age, the entrepreneur usually doesn’t have a mortgage, a car payment, or a built-up lifestyle to maintain.
On the contrary, a more experienced entrepreneur that is starting a company later in life has everything to lose. By this time in their career, they are used to a strong-paying salary. They live in a nice neighborhood with a comfortable car — maybe even a luxury car with a monthly payment attached. When his/her spouse thinks about starting a new company, he/she will also consider the stark reality of losing the comforts of life that they have worked hard to build up during their career. Suddenly, when thinking about all that he/she has to lose, the experienced entrepreneur’s plan to build a successful company include hedges, calculated moves, and conservatism.
20-Somethings Can Swing for the Fences
With nothing to lose, young entrepreneurs can look at solving problems with a completely different mindset. There is very little at risk. They aren’t required to hedge. And only the thing that crosses the entrepreneur’s mind is the drive to solve the identified problem in the best way possible. Fortunately, the young entrepreneur has the energy to consistently burn the midnight candle.
“I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.” — Bill Gates
Finally, without having been in the workplace, the young entrepreneur has a fresh perspective untainted from the way-it-is-supposed-to-be mindset that is so prevalent in most boardrooms. Consequently, their solutions are new, innovative, and groundbreaking.
If You’re a 20 Something…
Go for it.
There will never be a better time in your life to live your dream of entrepreneurship. Swing for the fences with a goal to add your name to the prestigious list above. If you fail, it will have been one of the best learning experiences of your life.
[Editor’s Note: This post originally featured on Forbes here]