Am I too young to start a company?

There’s no such thing as being too young to start a company. Just look at Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who started his first company, LinkExchange, at 23 and sold it to Microsoft for $265 million less than two years later. Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, started his first company, Accolade, at 21. Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he first launched Facebook. And we all know the stories of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

There is a huge advantage to being a young founder: You don’t know what cannot be done. You are unfazed by problems that other people have not been able to solve. You believe that things will be different for them. You will not be discouraged by seemingly insurmountable obstacles – you will find a way forward. You will not shoot down ideas before they are properly explored.  You also have an unbounded and irrepressible amount of energy, enthusiasm and drive. These are enormous assets when it comes to recruiting top talent, and motivating a team to push the frontiers beyond what seems possible. The healthy stamina that youth brings is very helpful too, considering the long hours they are taking on. 

There is one thing that a young founder should be aware of: Beware overconfidence.  There are a lot of things you can figure out by being smart, but there are also other things that simply take time and experience to get good at.  Things that involve relationship building (such as supply chain management) is a very good example where you can immediately see the difference in effectiveness of someone new to the game versus someone who has spent Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours building a massive supplier network. 

If you are a young founder, you should forge ahead with all your enthusiasm while acknowledging that you don't know what you don't know - and don't be shy to lean on your startup ecosystem to get help.  By leaning on people with experience to help and advice you in your startup journey, you can run very fast and be very successful while minimizing newbie mistakes.

 

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