Entrepreneurship: Old Age and Treachery Will Overcome Youth and Skill
Last September, Peter Thiel made an audacious offer to student entrepreneurs less than 20 years of age: $100,000 each to 20 entrepreneurs to drop out of college to pursue high tech entrepreneurial ventures. Personally, I think this is a poor message to university students. Sure…Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg did it and were wildly successful. But, the odds of success are miniscule. Statistics show that a college diploma has tremendous value to the youth of our country. Why suggest an alternate route to our brightest and best?
More importantly than the Thiel offer, one must consider the value of experience in starting a business. Those with the wisdom gained from a decade or more in industry fare better than fresh graduates in starting their own companies. According to a Kauffman Foundation survey, the average age of startup entrepreneurs is 39. And, as Annie Lowrey points out, trends in the US indicate that experienced businesspersons starting new ventures are more likely to survive and be successful than that younger and perhaps more exuberant counterparts.
My advice to budding college entrepreneurs is (1) finish your degree, (2) get a decade of business experience and then (3) start your first business. You will bring business savvy, a network of contacts and perhaps even some cash to your new venture – substantially increasing your chance of success.