Guest blog by Jason Iyeke, Entrepreneur
If you are over 50 and aspiring to be an entrepreneur, you may be curious about business or wondering if it is too late to start a business. If that’s you then this may be the article you need to read.
Last September I was part of an innovation programme called the Ignite Accelerator , which gives each cohort member mentorship support and funding to innovate in any area of interest. Mine happened to be around topics such as finances and entrepreneurship amongst the ‘older community’. The following insights were discovered from the research.
The ‘Olderpreneur’ Myth
Over the past few years, society has been looking for a term to describe the growing segments of people over 50 - from the ‘longevity economy’, ‘silver economy’, ‘ageing challenge’ or even worse the ‘silver tsunami’! The term ‘olderpreneur’ is one of the latest, meant to encapsulate the ageing entrepreneur, dusting off the notebook and competing in what is regarded as a young man’s game.
The truth is the average age of an entrepreneur is about 45 years old and a 50-year old founder is almost twice as likely to have a business success as their 30-year old counterparts (Forbes). I worked closely with a few entrepreneurs over 50 on the program. Guess what? We were doing exactly the same things – discovering a customer problem, validating the problem, creating a minimal viable product and raising funding. Therefore the idea of an ‘olderpreneur’ is no different to that of an entrepreneur.
The need to segment ‘over 50s’
The European commission defines the ‘silver economy’ as the ‘economy of the population over 50’. Does that also mean they classify the ‘0-49’ year old population in the same bracket?
Similar to the word ‘BAME’ (Black and Minority Ethnic), one word cannot capture the identity of a demographic which is so diverse. The ’50 to 100’ age bracket consists of people who have a range of habits, preferences (some love internet banking, others don’t know how to use email, as examples), financial literacy and come from different generations, living through different events in history.
The same way we break a mathematical equation into small segments to figure out the final answer, we must do the same with the 50 plus classification, as opposed to bunching them all together. Perhaps not literally (i.e. 50-60, 60-70 years and so on) but in terms of behaviours for example (levels of technological literacy). Regardless, better segmentation will help solve challenges, guide research outcomes and create better businesses. Victoria’s article on mental health in retirement also underlines this.
Older generations understand real challenges
There are far too many startups and solutions addressing issues which tackle ‘end-of life’ or poor-health mitigation, such as the dozens of wearables that exist on the market. This doesn’t reflect a majority of older people, who are healthy, want to have fun and are financially aware.
Innovation hubs need to do better to support entrepreneurs over 50, whose ideas tend to be more grounded in reality. A sustainable bricks and mortar business is much better than an ‘Uber for cats’, which is seen as ‘scaleable’ by venture capitalists. Many older entrepreneurs also have the advantage of networks built over the years to open doors, as well as sufficient finances to get started.
These ‘innovation centres’ also need to have the right people to understand the (segmented) community of people over 50. During the meetup group that I help run for Seniors in Newcastle, I noted that many people over 50 are in precarious work (such as creatives and vehicle drivers), trying to support themselves through retirement. Others talk about the difficulties of solo travel, while many play games like solitaire, which suggests a lot of time spent alone or worse case, isolation.
Precarious work, travel and isolation are intergenerational problems and are a far cry away from the ‘solutions’ that are produced and often praised from these innovation hubs.
Intergenerational Learning and Collaboration
Running a meetup group in Newcastle seemed to baffle many people. Why would I, a 34 year old man, be running a meetup group for Seniors? Research aside, it was an opportunity to speak to people, who at scale, I don’t get the opportunity to do so normally. My mother is in her 60s so some of the conversations have been invaluable. I also had fun and laughed a lot! There were also 60 year olds speaking to 90 year olds and experiencing the same level of learning, knowledge and laughter (further underlining the segmentation argument).
On a business level, there is room for improvement in terms of collaboration. In a few instances there were a few aspiring entrepreneurs that had the required skills (coding, accounting) but needed help understanding the business and funding landscape (which I have good knowledge of). Therefore we worked together to get the two entrepreneurs in front of the right people and submit grant applications.
So, to answer the article title, If you are over 50 years old, can you start a business?...
ABSOLUTELY! There has never been a better time to start a business. With ability to understand the problem, right network and willingness to collaborate you have a good chance of success!
You can read Jason's blogs here