With so many young entrepreneurs bursting into the tech startup scene, it can sometimes seem that age is no longer a factor when gaining investor support for your business. As a young entrepreneur myself, I disagree. Being a young business owner has clear pros and cons. By understanding and being aware of how your age can both help and hurt your chances for attracting investors, you will be able to use your age, perspective, and expertise to your advantage.
Focus on Perspective
I try to focus on the areas in which my youth can be an asset and emphasize those as much as possible. Often, I get credit for having a different point of view on the gaming industry than some of my peers due to my age and the time period in which I grew up. Being a young adult during the video game revolution, where gaming went from having a niche and dedicated following to being a massive mainstream industry, makes me more aware of how the audience and its wants and needs have changed. This perspective helped me to realize gamers were looking for a different kind of social media and community platform, which led to the launch of Duxter. See your unique point of view as something that sets you apart from others in your field, and use this knowledge to your advantage during conversations with potential clients or partners.
Handling Bias Against Youth
Working with big companies can sometimes be challenging. Larger companies tend to be biased against younger entrepreneurs. Of course there are exceptions, but there is often a stigma that we just started some website in our parents’ basement and aren’t “serious” enough to attract established partners and investors.
It’s up to you to prove your worth. Once you do, your age can actually turn into a huge perk. In fact, I recently talked with an investor who said he was only investing in entrepreneurs who are under the age of 30. He saw a generation filled with fresh ideas and not burdened with life commitments. It’s possible to find investors like this, but it’s also possible to convert more traditional investors to your side. You can use your age to your advantage, but you should never leave an investor questioning if your age will be an issue in business dealings.
Getting Over the “Experience Hump”
It is a common perception that experience comes with time and age. Obviously, a young business owner doesn’t have 10 to 20 years in their field. However, you can create credible experience in other ways. I have been in my space for 15 years (yes, since I was 11 years old). Sure, this wasn’t 80 hours a week for the past 15 years, but I have actively been conducting business in the gaming space for that long. I have seen the industry establish itself and grow. I understand the customers’ expectations. You have to be confident in the knowledge you bring to the relationship, which will discourage potential partners from questioning your drive, intelligence, or expertise.
Those wanting to get into the startup space should start now. Join an entrepreneur organization at your college, start an online company, participate in startup weekend, or intern for a successful entrepreneur. This experience can be used in future business ventures to establish your credibility and trust with potential investors.
Trusting Your Gut
Finally, there’s the old saying, “trust your gut.” As a young business owner with the odds against you, the saying has never been more relevant. Being able to make tough decisions is at the core of being a founder and leader, and you will face dozens of decisions every day. None of them will ever be made with perfect information. Being decisive and trusting your gut is what makes a successful entrepreneur. If you don’t trust yourself, your lack of self-confidence will not only affect you but also your venture’s possible success.
Young entrepreneurs face many obstacles in establishing their credibility and startups. Make those perceived weaknesses into strengths by focusing on your youthful vision, drive, and experience in the industry. The future of business will belong to those enthusiastic leaders who are able to combine raw energy with a professional and seasoned approach.
Adam Lieb is the Founder and CEO of Duxter, the LinkedIn for Gamers. Duxter is a funded startup in Seattle, WA, poised to be “the next big thing” in gaming. Rather than listen to the conventional wisdom that, “playing games was a waste of time,” Adam turned his passion into business.
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