We live in a youth obsessed culture. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have replaced rock, film and even sports stars as our modern-day pop culture celebrities. And since youth is the currency of celebrity we inevitably assume that entrepreneurship is the provenance of the young.
I launched my company at 28 and proceeded to run it over the next 13 years (I am now 41). By most accounts, even at 28 I was on the older side of what most people would expect for an "Internet Entrepreneur." My experience however played a big role in the company's success and I have no doubt that had I jumped into starting a company five or six years earlier, I would have likely failed.
It was my experience as a talent agent that first showed me that there was an underserved market for "independent" bands, who made under $3,000 a night, and were looking to connect with promoters in clubs, festivals, colleges or even cruise ships and hotels around the world. Had I not been in the industry, I would have never spotted this.
Six years of prior workplace experience also taught me how to motivate people, how to negotiate, how to articulate succinctly the value proposition of what I was selling, it even gave me a comfort level in dealing with attorneys, accountants and with people from other countries and cultures -- invaluable lessons that played a big part in my entrepreneurial success. Simply put, my prior experience and maturity helped me become a better entrepreneur.
We all assume that entrepreneurs are young and by and large male (there are numerous "Young Entrepreneur" organizations around the world, and even I co-founded one here in Boston in 2005). But age may in fact be an advantage, with the average age of successful entrepreneurs (ones with companies that have revenues over $1M) being 39 according to a study by Vivek Wadhwa of Singularity University in California.
Sam Walton did not start Walmart until he was 44, nearly a decade younger than Ray Kroc when he founded McDonald's and almost 20 years younger than Col. Harland Sanders when he opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken. Arianna Huffington started Huffington Post at 54, Paul English co-founded Kayak when he was in his early forties and Martha Stewart launched MLSO when she was 56. Marc Pincus was 41 when he founded Zynga.
It's time to rethink our entrepreneurial stereotypes and accept that innovation, inspiration and imagination comes to us at all ages.