I’m not sure if HTML has a tag to visually depict sarcasm, but, if so, it could definitely be applied above.
Obviously, there is no universally acknowledged answer – not all entrepreneurs and start-ups are alike. But, I think it used to be that there was a universally acknowledged threshold. Before the advent of the information and electronic age, starting a business in your 20s was generally considered laughable. Since then, the phenomenal success enjoyed by the founders of companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Google have inspired more young people to take the leap and challenge the threshold. So, the question remains – should I wait or should I go?
I think the biggest advantage with starting a business at a young age is freedom. As challenging as it is being an entrepreneur, the weight of having a mortgage, spouse, 1.7 cars, 2.1 kids, and 0.3 pets to support makes the challenge that much tougher! Freedom from financial and personal commitments is a great reason to start young. But, so is freedom from pre-existing notions. If you’ve done x for n years, then why do y in year n+1? Young people tend to bring a fresh perspective unblemished by the current way of doing things.
Conversely, I think the biggest disadvantage to starting a business at a young age is a lack of expertise. Some interpret this as a lack of technical expertise, or knowledge of a specific subject matter, but, I think the bigger issue has to do with a lack of emotional expertise. All things being equal, a 30-something entrepreneur is likely to be much more confident and mature than someone a decade younger. This is obviously of great benefit when it comes to dealing with issues and adversity, specifically those involving other people, like business partners, employees, investors, customers, competitors, etc.
GO! AND WAIT!?
At some point in their career, most entrepreneurs are told the story of Hernan Cortes, an explorer involved in the Spanish colonization of the Americas, who led the conquest of the Aztec Empire. Fearing that some of his men might flee to Cuba, Cortes decided to scuttle his fleet, thereby declaring that this expedition was “ALL OR NONE.” Although there is some historical debate as to why Cortes destroyed his ships, the lesson for entrepreneurs seems to be that starting a business is a full-time venture, and there is no looking back.
For most young people, I think it would be a mistake to immediately commit full-time to a start-up. Time is the luxury of youth, so there is plenty of time to research your idea and build momentum. If the business starts to show promise, then working on it full-time might be something to consider. Personally, I don’t feel it is necessary to scuttle your fleet until you are ready to make a big move (i.e. approach a VC firm for funding, secure a major customer, etc.), in which case, showing commitment is extremely important. Until then, it is nice having the option to return to Spain!
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