Age Is Just A Number

The gender gap in technology is a huge problem but the lack of diversity goes even farther than gender. In the startup world, we see a pretty similar demographic and not only is there a lack of females but a lack of varying ethnicities, educational backgrounds, religious views, and age groups.

It’s no secret that Silicon Valley skews young. And at the risk of generalization, the same can be said of tech startups across the board. Unlike most fields in business, where people tend to hit their stride in mid-age, in the world of tech even a thirty-something can be deemed old and washed up.

But while experience isn’t everything, common sense tells us that having experience should matter. Whereas the greatest strengths of young entrepreneurs can be found in their unbridled curiosity, enthusiasm, and even naiveté, many older entrepreneurs have something that only comes with time: wisdom. They have learned by trial and error what it takes to succeed and how to overcome obstacles, something every entrepreneur needs to figure out.

Around the world we’re seeing in our network, CEOs and employees that are over 30 and 40 – and sometimes over 60 years old. This past week in Scotland we met a 67 year-old founder who is doing really well.

We all know that talent is hard to come by, yet we’re seeing Baby Boomers represent a largely untapped resource among tech startups. Although Boomers represent 13% of the population of the United States, and even though they have tremendous amounts of business experience and wisdom to share, too many young entrepreneurs prefer to go at it with friends who are also just entering the business world.

Without a diverse team, your company will hit walls while trying to grow. How can you reach a global audience when your employees only reflect one small percentage of the population? Many companies promote the like-mindedness of their employees but having a single perspective could stifle your company’s ability to evolve and grow. As we’re fond of saying, it takes a village to start a company – and every village has its elders.

Let’s not forget that for all the Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobses of the world, there are many other success stories among entrepreneurs in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. Like it or not, twenty-somethings don’t have a monopoly on startup success.

Fortunately there are success stories when this happens. We saw the original founder of SendGrid hire Jim Franklin as CEO to take their company to the next level because of his experience. We saw Mark Zuckerberg hire Sheryl Sandberg because of her experience. And we are seeing more and more stories like that every day and taking proactive steps to combat subtle prejudices, ensuring that talented people – regardless of who they are – can find a place at the company and be a crucial element to a thriving team.