Q: How old is too old to start a startup?
IMHE it’s about a state of mind..
Let me try to add some practical answers:
1. First, you need to give it a full 24 month commitment to hit Initial Traction. 6 months isn’t enough. 12 isn’t. It’s going to take you 9-12 months just to get the product right. And another 6-12 to get any material revenues.
>> Can you “afford” to commit for 24 months just to get to Something? If not, you are too “old”. Even if you are just 22.
Slack went from $0 to $12m in ’14. But it wasn’t founded on 1/1/14. It took them a year to get an MSP. And it was really founded as a very different company many years earlier:
And you might not be Slack.
In any event, 12 months won’t cut it.
2. You have to be able to commit to 8,760 hours a year. 24 x 365. Not to being on Zoom / Slack or in the office 14-hour days. That’s not really necessary. But to obsessively thinking, worrying, futzing, stressing about how to do The Impossible. Every. Single. Moment of the day.
> If you don’t have the mental bandwidth — you are too “old”.
3. You have to have Zero Optionality. At least, you do to go big. This is perhaps most important. If you maintain optionality, it never really scales. “I’ll try for a while and go back to Google if it doesn’t work.” or “I’ll do a lot of consulting while I see if it works.” or “I’ll raise $500k and see how it works.”
This just never works. Great founders maintain Zero Optionality. Not because they are crazy risk takers. But because they just don’t see the risk. They have no need of back-up plans. They see The Future.
So … if you need to maintain optionality — you may be too “old”. It’s something I see hold back so many founders.
Chronological age is irrelevant in my experience, and IMHO.
In fact, I’ll say as an investor now, I have no idea how old any of my CEOs or founders are. Some have adult kids. Some clearly are relatively green. But — Never asked. Never cared. Just looked at 1, 2 and 3.
And finally, note:
4. The average SaaS CEO is 43 at IPO. And just getting going. So we are going to see plenty of very successful SaaS CEOs at 50, 60, and beyond. But they were generally younger when they started.