Am I too old to join a startup?


27

I just got approached to join a startup.

20 years ago, I had my first startup experience working as employee #5 of a outfit that is now owned by a German multinational corporation. It was the best time of my life.

Today, I am 47, a "jack of all trades-master of none", self taught coder/business analyst/project manager. The job would be very much in line with my own philosophy: Get Things Done.

Would you do it?

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asked Sep 20 '12 at 06:29
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Chris
238 points

10 Answers


37

I have worked with 18-year olds with maturity level of a 50-year old and with 50-year olds with maturity of a teen. Age is nothing but a number. We hire people for what they can do and their attitude. Have worked in and know plenty of startups where median age hovers in upper 30s. Having nice cross-section of ages, background, ethnicities, etc. makes companies more like their customers and tend to produce more profitable products.
That is at least my experience.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 06:40
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Apollo Sinkevicius
3,313 points
  • This is straight-to-the-point logic I like. +1. – Chris 4 years ago
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10

You're 47, not 97. If the project is something you like,and the people are people you'd enjoy working with -- why the heck not?

if you have to make a decision whether you should leave a steady workplace for the risk of a startup, then you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons. Otherwise, just go for it.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 06:34
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Ron M.
4,224 points
  • The risk aspect is more on the forefront yes, knowing that I have now a family to support. – Chris 4 years ago
  • then i'd say your age is not a factor. It's the dependents. I would enter a risky but fun project if I had 6 months of income set aside for security. I'd be worried to risk a full time job for a small startup if I didn't. Perhaps I'd make an exception for an extraordinary startup with good industry people, but nothing short of that. – Ron M. 4 years ago
  • I wonder if I'll still be programming when I'm 97, if I live that long :) – Mansuro 4 years ago
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9

In his book, The magic of thinking big, Mr. David J. Schwartz wrote, "Productive life of a human being starts at the age of 20 and ends at 80", c'mon, You have 33 years of your productive life in hands. You wont like to waste them doing something you don't like. I am 19, just completed my graduation, placed in 2 big named software companies, and am leaving both when everyone around me is saying that you should get a job to get some experience, and starting my own venture with zero experience. Just because I like to do thing for myself. I don't want to get paid to fulfill someone else's dreams when have my own. Go for it, if it makes you happy, its worth.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 07:46
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Sourabh
288 points
  • Just gave me the kick in the rear that I needed :) – Chris 4 years ago
  • I am glad I could be of some use.. :) – Sourabh 4 years ago
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6

Ok .. like you I am 47, I have 3 startups under my belt and like you I am more of jack of all trades. The answer to your question is a big "it depends" but the probabilities lean towards not joining a startup. Why?

  1. You have to consider the opportunity cost of a startup. As we know, a startup can turn into a windfall for those who join early which could lead to financial independence. At the age of 47, where retirement and possibly the cost of children's education has to be taken into account this could be a great thing.
However:

  1. Startups are risky. Globally 90% fail outright (reference ), and even of the 10% successful startups very few return much money to the founders or the employees. I would rate the chances of making significant money with a startup at between 1 in 50 to 1 in a 100, though these chances can be dramatically improved if you pay close attention to who the founders and funders are.
  2. Startups require long hours. Perhaps you could sustain that in your twenties or thirties, but in your 40s and 50s, and especially if you have children, it will be hard to keep that level of commitment without burning out.

So at our later stage in life, the benefits of a startup and its chances for success must considerably outweigh its risks to be worth considering.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 10:11
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Safa Alai
161 points
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5

Whats your stability tolerance?

If you can't sit around unemployed till you find a job after this thing fails then no go. Especially if your family is riding on the risk. If you can find a replacement job in 2 weeks then there isn't to much risk, if you may not find a replacement then no go.

How passionate are you on what this company's doing? Whats your time investment?

Would you rather poor your time into building a company your passionate about or be with your family? Sure you might not have to work 80 hour weeks, but either way if your not passionate about what this company is doing why would you risk your livelihood and the ability to provide for your family on it?

answered Sep 20 '12 at 12:40
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Robert
51 points

3

Personally, I believe that age is just a number, and when knowledge comes in front of age, I'd rather opt for knowledge because we developers are merely just by the name, as we are constantly learning new things everyday.

So according to me, If i were you, I'd just Go for it :)

PS : it also depends on how the startups are being managed by the owners and how interactive , creative and how passionate they really are towards their organisation.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 16:40
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Sid
31 points

2

I think it more or less depends on your passion, age being second consideration. However, family plays a more important factor in this than age I guess. Since you have someone else to support, so you have to make sure that you have a financial fallback plan if the startup doesn't work out.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 14:14
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Jcjc
51 points

1

You can be too old culturally to do a startup, but I don't think your physical age really affects that. So long as you haven't stagnated as a coder, are eager to learn new things, and can get things done, there's no reason I to think a 47 year old would be a bad choice.

In fact, a 47 year old at the top of their game would be many many times better than a 21 year old at the top of their game.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 12:37
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Paul Biggar
111 points

1

I'm late to the game in answering this but I've been at a number of startups myself and am currently not a spring chicken.

I agree with much of what's already been said. The one comment I'd add is be confident in yourself, in what you bring to the company and go in with that positive attitude. Try to push out any concerns about age from your mind. Feel GREAT about the experience you bring. Feel great about your "just get it done" attitude. Don't look at "jack of all trades, master of none" as a negative, look at it as a positive! Your attitude and your passion is what's young or old not the age on your drivers license.

answered Sep 21 '12 at 11:54
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Chris
4,214 points

0

What will you loose. Consider this for each of the options. And don't let the fear or desire or your feelings of security decide for you. Decide with your brain. What could you loose in every way, that you had not yet loose? Consider this deeply. I will do the same.

answered Sep 20 '12 at 13:27
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User1228807
1 point

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