Surviving as an entrepreneur requires unbridled passion, enthusiasm and a certain naiveté in the face of many unknowns. Young people are more accustomed to facing a new world each day, so they don’t worry about it, and usually actually relish the new adventure. Once the rest of us reach a certain age, we know too many things that can go wrong, so we avoid the path entirely.
Of course, entrepreneurs of any age can be young at heart and equally fearless, and still able to use their greater experience as an advantage. These are the people that every smart investor seeks, but rarely find. Thus every investor also looks hard at the young entrepreneurs who are striving to achieve things that no one else thought possible, and exhibit the following characteristics:
Ability to rebound quickly. This resilience to recover quickly from a setback, pivot and charge ahead again is invaluable for an entrepreneur. The startup path is strewn with aspiring entrepreneurs who give up at the first tough challenge, are quick to make excuses or burn themselves out in stubborn desperation on a broken objective.
See the best parts of life are still ahead. Young people who look forward with anticipation rather than dread make the best entrepreneurs. They see the potential for changing the world as a great experience and are determined to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. They have no legacies to protect or past accomplishments to live up to.
Can give total focus to the business. Entrepreneurship is best started before the financial burdens of family and keeping up with peer success weigh heavily. Young entrepreneurs don’t miss the responsibilities of success, as they have never been there. There are fewer distractions from prior commitments and relationships.
Have boundless optimism and energy. Young entrepreneurs are convinced that every day they are creating a business that will improve the future of our country, communities and families. They are confident that their power to focus 24 hours a day will overcome technological and political barriers, and surpass the old guard of existing competitors.
Willing to think differently. As people age, they tend to get stuck in traditional modes of operation and thinking. It’s becomes harder to think creatively. To build a successful new startup, with new challenges and new competitors every day, it’s important to be the model for your team of how to think outside the box.
Live and work unconventionally. Invention and creativity cannot be scheduled. The realities of new product development may require living on ramen noodles and sleeping on a cot in the back room for a week. Young entrepreneurs are not yet ingrained with the corporate habits of long meetings, regular work hours and free weekends.
Enjoy multi-cultural relationships. In this age of the Internet, the world is a smaller place, so young people have grown up aware of the diversity around them. They have learned from and interacted with multiple cultures online through social media and at school. Diversity is a key to innovation and maximizing new business opportunities.
Satisfaction is not connected to money. Young idealism associates happiness with a lifestyle, rather than a reward. The entrepreneur lifestyle has the lure of future money, but more immediate satisfaction in the daily learning, new relationships and stature in an exciting community of peers. Satisfaction is making your own decisions and mistakes.
None of these are a total substitute for street smarts and book smarts. Investors look for aspiring entrepreneurs, young or young at heart, who can sell themselves well, have good negotiating skills, are problem-solvers and have a broad educational background. Don’t forget to highlight the experience you have accumulated in all of life’s domains.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur with the perspectives outlined above, the future is bright. It’s time to enjoy your advantage and step out confidently to change the world. The rest of us are waiting expectantly to see what you can do. Don’t disappoint us.