I may be too old to run a mile

But there’s one thing I still do very well…

I may be too old to climb a stile

But there’s one thing at which I still excel…

Although my hair is turning grey

I still believe it when I say –

I’ts never too late to have a fling.

For Autumn is just as nice as Spring.

If they say I’m too old for you

Then I shall answer ‘Why, sir,

One never drinks the wine that’s new

The old wine tastes much nicer’…

The modern artists of today

May paint their picture faster

But when it comes to skill, I say

You can’t beat an old master…

If you’re connected to startup ecosystem, you’re probably rolling your eyes to the back of your head thinking, “What does this article have to say about that?”.

Let me rewind. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon when I thought of having some fun with my kiddo. She had just started coding for fun & had uploaded her first app on playstore a few days back; so I asked her about when do we see all those investors that they show in the WhiteHat jr TV commercial (sic) at our doorsteps, fighting over to give her some money. For a shy 13-year old, she does give it back. She retorted that while she has just started on this a few months back, I have been at it for sometime now. So do we see the investors making a beeline for my venture? 1-0 to the kid. Perfect time for my father to chip in and ask me about my financial health (he wasn’t too pleased a few years back when I left the comfort of the well-paying corporate job). The afternoon was quickly turning into a disaster. I had to move away quickly before the vultures took me apart. Thankfully the phone rang; I have never been happier to get a phone call as I was at that moment. Turned out that it was cold call from ICICI but I started chatting as if he was my old chum. It gave me the chance to walk away from being taken apart. But the discussion with family also gave me plenty of food for thought.

With the New year retrospection and resolution stuff still warm, it was a moment of reflection. Is it too late for guys like us to make a mark in this journey? Is there a perfect age for entrepreneurship? What advice would I give to my kids? Is dropping out of college ‘cooler’ than dropping out of a corporate career? That got me thinking? Why did I do it? Why do other people risk it?

I soon realized that this act of bravery, so to speak, is fundamentally out of love rather than courage alone. It could be love for money, fame, success, social impact or maybe something else. Now love is an interesting concept as we tag it more with individuals than with Startups. But there are similarities – Both activities have the same effect and trigger the right hormones in your brain (DOSE—Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin, also known as the “happiness hormones”). Both involve intense feelings, evoke similar passion, similar heart break, similar highs and lows. And in both cases it is a wild journey, an emotional roller-coaster.

They say romantic relationships are the most difficult relationships to maintain, no matter who you are or who you are dealing with. I would think the relationships that are truly difficult are the ones founders have with their startups. These kind are a different level all together. These involve the kind of sacrifices, commitment, time, attention, and emotional investment which will make Romeo-Juliet love struggle a walk in the park in comparison.

Given that and the intense struggle, who would be the best fit to undertake this arduous journey – a young fresher wet behind his ears or one who has been around for some time. Now there is no right age for love but I would think that it is better to be a bit experienced and mature as an individual for one to be successful at it.

Well there is nothing wrong in starting early and going for what you believe in as soon as you can. We live in a society where kids and parents are obsessed with early achievement, from getting perfect scores in Board exams to getting into IITs & Ivy League colleges to landing an amazing job at Google or Facebook or Uber.

I think that the uber-success of people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg often tricks the younger generation into thinking that you need to start early and even more dangerous notion that college is not that important. Ditching college for a startup dream is not only foolish, it does that even reflect the true status on the ground. The concept of a successful college dropout is rare. The majority of startup founders have advanced degrees. College & some job experience provides important time to experiment & explore your passions and find a product/market fit.

My advice to young startup wannabes? Take your time getting started. At the very least, finish college. While a large part is because you will never have a chance to do that again, it’s also because those things will actually make you a better startup person. Try various things out and then decide which idea to fall in love with. What is the rush? Remember Facebook had hit 1 million users before Mark dropped out of college.

To the late bloomers, well I have some stats for you. Some of the most recognizable brands like McDonald’s and KFC were founded by people who were middle-aged. Ray Kroc and Sanders Reid Hoffman, Marths Stewart, William Boeing, William Procter…are oft-repated examples. A recent by two MIT professors found the most successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged–even in the tech sector. The researchers compiled a list of 2.7 million company founders. The average startup founder was 45 years old when he or she founded the most successful tech companies. And in general terms, a 50-year-old entrepreneur is almost twice as likely to start an extremely successful company as a 30-year-old.

Why? There are plenty of reasons, but one key factor is the experience. It’s much harder to execute well when you have limited experience. It’s much harder to develop a sound strategy when you have limited experience. It’s much harder to make smart tactical decisions–especially when you need to make a number of decisions every day–when you have limited experience. Specially the Leadership experience!

We have unfolding gifts over the many decades of our lives. At what decade of our lives do our cognitive abilities peak? It’s a really complex and intriguing answer. Late bloomers are under-valued—in popular culture. Yet the fact is, a lot of us—most of us—do not explode out of the gates in life. We actually experience multiple periods of blooming in our lives. Moreover, late bloomers enjoy hidden strengths because they take their time to discover their way in life—and build strengths which is critical for success —including curiosity, insight, compassion, resilience, and wisdom.

My advice to middle-aged wannabes? Simple – if you’re in your 40s and you want to start a business, do it. If you’re in your 50s, do it. If you’re in your 60s…do it. You get the drift where I am going with this. It is never too late to fall in love.

By the way, back to that sunny afternoon. Well the only empathetic ear I got all day was from that bank guy. We chatted a bit, he empathized with me and NO, he didn’t think bank would give a loan to me. I was the startup guy you know. Banks won’t accept repayment of loan with my love. There are a few things money can’t buy. Well there are a lot more things that love can’t get you, hence be wise with who or what you fall in love with and more importantly when.

– Ashish Bhatia,
Founder & CEO, India Accelerator

Manvi Mehra