Silicon Valley Age Bias Is Overrated: Age Doesn’t Matter

silicon valley age bias founders

Bloggers have gone off on a tangent this week over several posts concerning the very young age of some recently backed Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

Valleywag the put out a graphic suggesting the optimal age for a ‘unicorn potential’ founder to be 26.

This is total B.S.

In fact, the average age of a startup founder among the top 0.1% of highest-growth startups  is 45 years old.

While it’s true that that many of the most exceptional venture outcomes have been from young founders, there is also a lot of hindsight bias at play. While younger founders may create outlier outcomes (towering home runs making the highlight reel) older founders have a higher overall batting average. I’ll take consistency anytime.

Younger founders can be appealing because they are not limited by convention, or industry baggage. These founders are all about taking idea risk or distribution risk (will someone use it?). They try to do things in ways never before seen, or imagined, because they approach the world with a beginner’s mindset. Young founders often attack consumer markets where the winners tend to be few, but the ones that do work, work massively.

Older founders tend toward executional risk; they are your archetypal enterprise SaaS founders who has worked in and studied an industry for years and sees a better way to solve a known problem. Older founders have lots of advantages including rolodexes (networks and social capital), experience and industry insights. However, they may also have factors that simply dissuade them from wanting to take on the risk or all consuming commitment level that a younger founder doesn’t know enough to see as a potential real red flag.

The bottom line is that age doesn’t matter, certainly not as much as it used to or as sensationalist publications like Valleywag might want you to believe. 

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