Do VCs prefer a founder/CEO to be in his or her early 20s or late 30s?

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JASON LEMKIN

The answer for the very best start-ups appears to be 34 at founding on average, which also seems to make some sense (thx Aileen Lee + team):

Welcome To The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups

What you really want as an early-stage VC is, in the early days, to invest just enough capital to get huge returns.  And the smaller your fund, the more you need the founders to be super-capital efficient at first.  Mid and later stage investors are more about investing huge amounts of capital to get huge returns.

Younger founders are cheaper to invest in.  They are.  They don’t spend as much, as least not in the early days (later, sometimes, they spend more).  And first-timers (of whatever age) command much lower valuations than proven or even semi-proven second-timers.  Their personal burn rates are also often much lower.

Also, younger founders see fewer reasons things won’t work.

But …

Clearly, especially in B2B and SaaS … experience helps.  A lot.  Marc Benioff knew how the industry worked.  The Salesforce Alumns that have founded Veeva, Okta, Zuora, and many other next-gen SaaS leaders knew at least part of the playbook.

Experience doesn’t always help with product-market fit, and sometimes, can be a detriment to finding it.  But in SaaS, experience quite often helps you scale faster after product-market fit.

So 34, with hindsight, isn’t a surprise.  It’s a blend of experience without too much jaded-ness.

Personally, I don’t care.  I have no idea how old any founder I’ve invested in is, and I’ve never asked.  But I do think it’s important founders are young at heart.

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Published on April 24, 2016
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