Sure, experience and deep industry knowledge are advantages when starting your own business--but actually digging in and doing is the best way to get that experience. And there's nothing like the insistent tug of questions about potential market size and customer segments to drive a person to do real research. Founding a company is experiential learning at its finest.
So while I do also believe that you're never too old to start a company--when you've built up that experience and knowledge, and want a productive outlet for it--here are five advantages to starting a company while you're young.
1. It's a great time to fail.
If you're going to fail--and plenty of startups do--the easiest time to do it is when that failure will cause the least collateral damage.
Most young people don't yet have a whole house full of furniture and belongings. They aren't yet encumbered by a spouse or partner or, especially, children. There's no mortgage, and hopefully no payments on an expensive car. This means that the risk of failure is substantially less than for older folks, who have all these people who need their time and attention and all this stuff making financial demands on their wallets.
A young person can choose to pour all of their days, brainpower, and money into a startup--which is really what a startup demands.
2. You have creativity unfettered by knowledge.
Some thorny problems require profound expertise to solve. But time and again, I've seen some of the best solutions to difficult problems come from people who have little context and less knowledge.
Sometimes, being deep inside an industry or a problem puts blinders on you, so that you no longer ask the seemingly dumb questions that can, occasionally, open up the whole situation. This innocence creates huge creative potential.
This is not, of course, an excuse for not going out and learning as much as you can as fast as you can about your chosen problem. But don't assume that your early ideas are wrong just because the experts say so. Take an MVP to your customers and see what they have to say about your new solution.
3. You dream the impossible dream.
This is kind of a variant on the above, but I think it's important to draw it out.
People with more experience or industry knowledge may say that what you're trying is impossible. And maybe it was, 10 years ago, or even two. My point is that someone who thinks they already know that there is no solution to a problem won't even go looking for it. Yet technology is moving so fast these days that the impossible just keeps becoming possible. Maybe you've found a way to apply new technology to an old problem. Maybe you've got an insight from a different industry, or even--gasp--an actual original idea.
Maybe not. But why not use the energy and optimism of youth to find out?
4. You have energy and optimism.
Speaking of-- there may be people who become more energetic and optimistic as they get older, but I haven't met them. I know plenty of people who continue to be energetic and optimistic, but many of us find that, as we get older, we need more sleep, and our perspectives become more jaded.
Energy and optimism are exactly what you need to start a company, though, so why not use them when they're at their natural peak? Starting a company requires immense energy. It takes a lot of long days, and often long nights as well, to make the most of one of your key advantages as a startup: speed. And it certainly takes optimism to say that your company is going to be one of the 30 percent of tech companies or 3 percent (ouch!) of consumer hardware startups that succeed.
5. Why not?
If you think you want to be an entrepreneur, why not find out if the life of an entrepreneur is right for you, right away? Here's what starting your own company when you're young can give you:
The thrill of success, and the wisdom gained from failure.
The rush of being able to say "I made this happen!"
Knowing that you took on risk and got to the other side.
Success, which can take you to the next win or loss with the experience from that first success.
Failure, which informs you that you aren't comfortable with risk.
Failure or success that lets you know that you can handle risk.
The wisdom gained from trying.