The world prizes early success in life. This mindset is perpetuated when we hear the stories of the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who both founded their empires in their twenties. But research shows that they aren’t the norm. Let’s take a Deep Dive.
🌱 Let’s acknowledge this now: as a society, we’re obsessed with celebrating the success of young people. Descriptors such as "prodigy" and "whiz kid" are commonplace in the media—Gen.T included.
💪 Despite all this, recent data suggests that older business owners, particularly those above 40 years old, are more likely to succeed than their younger counterparts. According to experts, having more years of specific industry experience and greater financial security gives them an edge, even if they are less creative or tech-savvy.
🚀 Others argue that there isn’t a perfect age to start a business. Instead, your chance of succeeding is shaped by your readiness to keep at it until you make a breakthrough. And if your first idea doesn’t work, there’s no age limit on how long you can keep searching for something that will.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Paul Graham, the co-founder of American startup accelerator and seed capital firm Y Combinator, once said that investors have a cut-off age in mind before they become sceptical of a startup founder’s ability to succeed. What age was this?
What Can We Learn From People Who Succeed Later In Life? TED
How The Cult Of Early Success Is Bad For Young People Time
Why Late Bloomers Are Happier And More Successful Quartz
Who Are The Most Successful Entrepreneurs? The Middle-Aged Wired
How To Avoid Ageism
In this scene from US sitcom TV series The Office, Steve Carrell’s character Michael Scott and his colleagues search for possible reasons why society “hates old people so much” and what we can do to stop this discriminatory behaviour
THE FULL PICTURE
Based on the graph below, the likelihood of startup founders experiencing extreme business success increases with age, until they hit their late 50s.
Harvard Business Review
MOVERS & SHAKERS
The Inventor Momofuku Ando
In 1958, a 48-year-old Momofuku Ando created the world’s first instant noodle, a chicken-flavoured ramen. Thirteen years later, the Taiwanese-Japanese entrepreneur, who founded Nissin Foods Group, unveiled his next big invention—the Cup Noodles range, taking Japanese instant noodles global.
Japanese computer programmer Masako Wakamiya made headlines in 2017 when she launched her first app at the age of 81. This earned her the title of the world’s oldest iPhone app developer and a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook two years later.
Before venturing into fashion for the first time at age 40, American designer Vera Wang was a figure skater, dancer and editor at Vogue. Since opening her flagship bridal salon in New York in 1990, she has dressed many famous women, including Michelle Obama, Victoria Beckham and Chelsea Clinton.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Did you miss our Deep Dive on Productivity During A Pandemic? Read it here
ONE FINAL THING
Breeding Successful Liars
The media’s obsession with early success and the startup world’s youth-obsessed culture have together led some founders to feel pressured to lie about their age.
The Deep Dive is a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that’s shaping Asia’s future. This issue was written by Chong Seow Wei, with editing and production by Samantha Topp and Lee Williamson.