A month or two ago, I tweeted about going to an English Beat concert. Instantly I got two responses back: one from @theenglishbeat saying on twitter to me publicly that they look forward to seeing me. The second was an equally public twitter from my 39 year old brother: "You are old, dude".
Me.... old? Hey I... twitter!
So recently, when I came across my sister-in-law's neighbor's book, "How To Not Act Old", based on her blog, howtonotactold.com, I was intrigued. I have never really thought of myself as old; but maybe just maybe my brother was right, and I was starting to act old.
Here are a couple rules for not acting old that the author identified:
- Don't say "Dude"... maybe "Cool". Slang immediately identifies your generational age if you think about it.
- Don't wear matching clothes or "tighty whities" (that's white mens 'briefs' for you oldsters)
- Be optimistic. Negativity is a downer. That includes talking about death or health problems.
- Don't rave about Bruce Springsteen. Enough said.
- Don't wear an expensive watch. Don't wear any watch. If you want to check the time, check your cellphone.
And there were about 180+ other rules (more are coming I am sure).
Needless to say I was struck by these "rules", as many I've unknowingly broken myself --making my brother's point I guess.
One old venture capital dude, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, got into some trouble earlier this year, asserting that only people under 30 built big transformative businesses. Getting into an age war argument isn't my cup of tea.
For the startups I back, which tend to be more business to business technology companies, I prefer a mix of both younger as well as more mature managers; the trick is getting that mix right where one age group is not more dominant than the other in a deleterious way. Having an old hand that has "seen this movie before" is a great way for a young founder to see around corners they haven't experienced; and having a young hand around with energy reminds us that sometimes the impossible is possible, and freshly challenge our long cherished beliefs that need updating. My experience suggests that older and young entrepreneurs do best when they work together collaboratively.
Whether the founder is young or old, their capacity to recruit and balance the right mix is extremely important to startup success. Yahoo, Google and Netscape are classic examples of teaming up a young founding teams with more seasoned managers as well as younger managers. Even Michael Dell and Bill Gates were smart enough to recruit senior as well as younger managers relatively early in their companies existence. A bootstrapped way to do this early on is to recruit these people to a board of advisors or board of directors, and use as a sounding board.