Age Is Just A Number For Startup Founders [Startup Series]
Would Apple been the company it is today without Steve Jobs? Often Apple is considered an icon among technology firms notwithstanding the growing fatigue of consumers with the company. But I often think without Steve Jobs, would anyone have bothered with Apple?
After all Apple was Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs was Apple?
Then what about the other founders like Steve Wozniak ? , The technical genius that was the heart of Apple if Jobs was the soul?
In a start up the role of the founder is very important. Often experts feel that if a start up is based on a product innovation then the founders need to be technically savvy and young. And this has led to a fallacy in the Indian market that the startups need to have young folks running it.
Media, Movies and even some gyan gurus have encouraged this fallacy. Most investors shy away from startups founded by older or middle aged entrepreneurs.
But this is a wrong assessment. Though age and technology awareness can help product innovation but industries that rely on process innovation would need excellent managers and they need experience.
The average age of entrepreneurs in India is about 26 years and this is the reason why most investors prefer younger founders. In India, as most startups are in the tech space this holds true. This is in line with the average age of a founder in Silicon Valley. But according to other experts like Vivek Wadhwa, the age goes up for certain other industries.
A good example is Bio tech where the average age is 40. Similarly in Heavy engineering the average age is around 40 again. Interestingly in China the average age of an entrepreneur is 36. This is in line with Vivek Wadhwa’s finding as startups in China are more on the process manufacturing space and not so much on the internet space.
The role of the founder is very important in a new company. As there are no processes in place, defining roles and distributing it among the founders becomes a necessary step. I have seen meetings where investors would quiz the founders and ask them who was playing which role. Like in Apple’s case it was Steve Jobs who gave the vision and direction to the company. In their case that was important.
In India there are three types of entrepreneurs. First category is that of family supported businesses. Here the founders are young and have fancy degrees from abroad. The second category is young management graduates mostly from IITs and IIMs who start their businesses. Most of the current Indian firms in news like Flipkart belong to this category.
The third categories are product ventures. These are founded by older businessmen and usually are in the non technology space. Here the founders use their own capital for initial funding.
All three categories co-exist with each other and depend on the relative skills and experience of the founders.
To conclude, Apple was founded by Steve Jobs at a very young age. But it was Job’s second coming at a much older age that led Apple to greater heights. In my book at least Apple without Steve Jobs would not have been ‘The Apple ‘that we love so much.
[This is first article in the startup series that we will feature on trak.in in coming weeks, stay tuned for more]