When Are You ‘Too Old’ To Start A Startup?

Flickr / Johan Larsson
Flickr / Johan Larsson

Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Am I too old to start a tech company? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

beetlejuice

Your age

If you are still capable of generating great ideas, can still program and are business savvy, then you are capable of creating a startup.  I didn’t finish school until I was 30 and didn’t create Dragon Systems until I was 37.  Now I am 70, and I have more great ideas than ever.  I am looking for young-at-heart co-founders!

Age is not an issue.  Your problem is not your age, but the fact that you have financial commitments.

Your finances

Your first task as an entrepreneur is to take an entrepreneurial approach to your family finances.

How much does your total income exceed expenses?  How much can you decrease these expense?  How much can you increase the revenue?

How would you answer these questions if you were running a startup business.  Be frugal. Run lean.  Be creative in looking for new sources of revenue.

Does your “great idea” absolutely require you to quit your job before you can even get started?  Can you do some preliminary work while you are still employed?  If not, then consider starting with a smaller idea.

Treat your family income and expenses like a small startup.  What can you do to save expenses?  What can you or your spouse do to generate extra revenue?  Start an on-line business working part-time at home.  Sell on e-bay.  Sell on Amazon.  Moonlight.  Freelance.  Write a book. Learn all the things you need to know as an entrepreneur.  Earn and learn by doing.

Are you ready?

Now or after you have accumulated more savings, ask yourself:  “Am I ready to jump off the cliff and begin sewing my parachute?”

Do you have enough savings so that you could afford to take extended, unpaid parental leave if you had another child? You can use those savings to support yourself during the birth of your startup.

How quickly will your startup be able to generate revenue?  If your great idea will take too long, first do some product or service that will generate revenue more quickly.  If you don’t have immediate funding, you will have more control over how quickly you can generate revenue than you will over how quickly you can raise funding.  Besides if you already have revenue, you will have a higher probability of raising funding and will get better terms.  This is true even if the revenue isn’t from the great idea you will be pitching to the investor.  The great idea is to show the great potential for future growth.  Generating revenue and being profitable shows that you know how to create and manage a successful business.

Should you quit your job?

If your savings are sufficient and you have ways to generate revenue quickly, then “Yes” you can quit your job tomorrow.  However, try to leave on friendly terms.  Fulfill your obligations.  Don’t burn any bridges.  That’s not only the Golden Rule, it is in your own self-interest as well.

Conclusion

You certainly should not let any artificial worry about your age get in your way.  However, if you feel that you are not yet financially ready, that’s OK. You can still do it gradually, in stages as I have outlined above.

Whether you succeed or fail, when you are 70 years old you will be glad you did it.  You may even say “I’m only 70; I think I’ll try another startup.” TC mark

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.

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