Bill Gurley had a great post about the advantage of youth, and it got me thinking about the advantages of age and youth. I came to a pretty exciting conclusion:
We are entering a golden age of internet founders!
We hear about young tech founders a lot these days. We invest in young founders at NextView all the time, and I’m proud of it.
But I do think the trend towards young founders in the internet space is driven somewhat by our moment in time. While young founders may lack experience, what they have is an innate sense of how the internet is evolving and how people want to use their services. They are digital natives. There is something advantageous about growing up with no memory of a time when the internet wasn’t an intimate part of the world. Older founders have a hard time competing against this.
Most of these folks are the founders who were born in the early/mid 80’s. Today, they are in their mid-late 20’s.
But I’ve also found that it’s terrific working with slightly older founders. A great sweet spot are folks in their early to mid 30’s. At this point, one has over a decade of experience and is more seasoned as a leader. One also probably has more experience to draw from when thinking about what opportunities to pursue, some of which may be much more non-obvious. These folks also have more credibility to sell into enterprises, and have stronger networks within those enterprises. But folks at this age are still in their early primes and can be very hungry and ambitious as they try to make their dent in the world.
What we are going to see the next few years is the digital natives hitting this awesome age. You’ll see those “kids” that tried to start crazy companies (many of which failed) resurface, way more seasoned, ready to start their next one. The acquihires will emerge from big companies with a whole host of new problems to solve that they never knew about before working in a big company. The “Tom Brady Entrepreneurs” will have learned at the side of Zuck, Andrew Mason, Jack Dorsey, Drew Houston etc. It’s truly the start of a golden age of internet founders.
That said, the young will still have their own advantages. Technology and markets change so fast. But I think it’s less of a divide than the pre/post internet era. But what we might see is the rise of “mobile internet natives” – folks who grew up in a time when it was assumed that the web was at their fingertips wherever they were. I think that will be pretty exciting as well.