4 Ridiculous Myths that Stop People from Starting a Business After 50
One of my favorite things about running Profit After 50 is that I get to find out about all of the amazing projects that you are working on. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder, with so many successful older entrepreneurs out there, why aren’t more people over 50 starting their own business? What’s holding our generation back?
Talking with other older entrepreneurs, I have come to realize that there are several “myths” that prevent people from starting a business after 50. Some of us believe that entrepreneurship is a young person’s game. Others think that getting funding after 50 is impossible. Still others struggle with the concept of “retirement” and worry about how others will perceive them if they can’t (or don’t want to) take it easy in the best years of their life. Every single one of these myths is as ridiculous as it is false.
Here are the 4 myths that hold older entrepreneurs back – and, more importantly, what we can do about them.
Myth: Older Entrepreneurs Just Aren’t Successful
Truth: Actually, the opposite is true! Statistically, older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed than any other demographic. According to this article in Forbes, when it comes to starting high-growth companies, people over 55 are almost twice as successful as entrepreneurs in their 20s.
Based on my own interviews with other older entrepreneurs, this statistic isn’t surprising. As I wrote previously, our combination of skills, connections, empathy and financial resources make us a force to be reckoned with.
Part of the reason that we believe younger entrepreneurs are more successful is that we see their stories in the media more often. Sites like Techcrunch love to report on new technology projects, regardless of whether they have the potential to grow into viable businesses. In addition, the narrative of the young hacker, changing the world from his garage, is easy for the masses to understand. This is one of the main reasons that I started Profit After 50. I wanted to shine a light on the amazing work that all of you are doing.
So, if you are over 50 and are thinking about starting a business, remember that you are in good company! You are a part of the most successful generation of entrepreneurs. You can build your dream business after 50!
Myth: It’s Impossible to Get Funded as an Older Entrepreneur
Truth: As with many myths, there is a germ of truth here. Many of the older entrepreneurs that interviewed on the Profit After 50 podcast mentioned that getting funding for their business was harder than they thought. Some even claimed to have been victims of ageism when talking to VCs (venture capital companies). But, does that mean that getting funding for your business after 50 is “impossible?” Far from it!
The main thing to remember is that “angels” (affluent individuals that invest in early stage companies) and VCs want to maximize their potential gains and limit their risks. It’s extremely difficult for any entrepreneur, regardless of age, to get funded if they have no track record and their idea has no momentum. As a result, it’s usually a waste of time to try to attract funding during the “idea phase” of your business.
A better approach is to get out there and start building your business, one virtual brick at a time. People are often surprised by how much they can do on their own, once they give it a try. If you need help from specialists along the way, you can always consider doing “equity for services” deals – giving them a small share of your company in exchange for their help. There are plenty of ways to do this without giving up control, so, check with a lawyer to avoid any pitfalls.
Another option is to partner with someone who has the skills that you need. For example, when I started Boomerly, I partnered with my son. He handles all of the business development, operational, legal and accounting tasks related to our business so that I can focus on content and the community.
Once your business has some momentum, take a step back and craft your story. Due to the high “transactional costs” of funding a company, VCs want to invest in ideas that have massive growth potential. Be grand in your vision and realistic with your growth plan.
The bottom line is that older entrepreneurs shouldn’t let a lack of funding stop them from starting a business. With a little creativity and a lot of patience, you can get your business started without someone else’s money. Later, with momentum, and a clear vision, on your side, you may be surprised by how quickly you are able to get the money you need to grow.
Myth: If You Start a Business After 50, it’s Because You Failed to Plan for Retirement
Truth: Nonsense! As I’ve written about before, there is no “rule” that says that retirement has to be a time of quiet reflection and “aging gracefully.” Starting a business in your 50s can be one of the best ways to ensure a happy, healthy and financially secure life after you reach retirement age.
By the time we reach our 50s, we understand who we are and what we are passionate about. When it comes to starting a business, our skills and experience give us an edge over any other demographic. So, the question is: why wouldn’t we want to share our passions with the world? If we can make a little extra money, while making the world a better place, all the better!
Starting a business is something to be proud of at any age. Don’t let other people’s expectations how you back. If you have an idea for a new business, go for it!
Myth: You Need Specialized Technical Skills to Succeed as an Entrepreneur
Truth: While it might feel this way if you’re a fan of websites like TechCrunch or Mashable, the truth is that there are many business opportunities for older entrepreneurs, most of which do not require specialized technical skills.
As I mentioned in a previous article, part of the challenge is that we have a tendency to define “business” too narrowly. Starting a business doesn’t meant that you need to create the next Instagram or Facebook. From franchises and retail businesses to professional services companies and online businesses, there are more options than ever open to entrepreneurs of all ages.
That said, even if your business does require software development, you may be surprised how easy it is to find a programmer to help. Websites like Guru.com, Odesk and Elance make it easy to find someone with the exact skills that you are looking for. Your own network on LinkedIn can be a fantastic source of leads as well – especially if you are looking for a partner and not a freelancer.
For anyone thinking about starting a technology focused business after 50, I would highly recommend reading The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. As Eric explains, one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is trying to ship a “perfect” product, based on incomplete data. A better approach is to build an MVP (minimum viable product), which can be improved incrementally over time.
In my experience, many older entrepreneurs are perfectionists by nature. Perhaps our parents taught us to “do things right first time.” Or, maybe we learned over the course of our careers to avoid “mistakes.” Whatever the reasons, abandoning your quest for perfection will help you move faster and will compensate for any perceived lack of technical skills that you have.
When it comes to starting a business, people over 50 hold all of the cards. We have the skills and experience to know what to do and the wisdom to know why we are doing it. If any of the myths highlighted in this article are holding you back, I encourage you to take a second look at your situation. You are a part of the most powerful and successful generation of all time. We have changed the world in every phase of our life. Reinvention is a part of our DNA. Let’s do the same for entrepreneurship after 50. Let’s show the world what we can do!
Can you related to any of the myths in this article? What other myths do you think older entrepreneurs struggle with? Please join the discussion and “like” and share this article to keep the conversation going.