Age is just a number in business
When it comes to business, how old is too old? How young is too young? In the business arena, age is absolutely just a number.
Zuckerberg was 19 years old when he set up Facebook. Whilst the business is in the midst of some controversy, there’s no denying it has been a phenomenal commercial success with revenue of more than $40 billion (£27.9bn) in 2017.
And he’s not the only example of teenagers and young adults with an entrepreneurial spark going on to achieve extraordinary levels of success.
House of Coco founder Laura Bartlett launched her first company at just 23 years old with zero funding. Her travel magazine is now the third best seller worldwide on newsstand.co.uk. Jigsaw Medical founder Chris Percival launched his first business aged just 14. He is now the CEO of Jigsaw Medical, eJIGSAW and Jigsaw Records.
One of my four daughters has had an entrepreneurial streak since she was small. There are many people within the UKFast team who have at one time or another been offered a packet of sweets by her at the price of £1. It’s worth noting these are the same sweets that we give away at events for free! More recently she took to making and selling sushi at our Swiss hotel the Farinet – she’s certainly a salesperson at heart!
No matter your age, if you’re passionate about the project and can make it economically viable, there’s no reason not to go for it.
But it’s not just about the age of the entrepreneur – the age of the company is just a number too. When we hear the word start-up, more often than not, we assume it’s describing a fragile creation. A business in its very infancy; risky. In reality, whilst there is invariably a level of risk involved in starting any business, start-ups are perfectly placed to be incredibly agile. Start-ups are at an advantage for providing the best level of service from outset.
Particularly in the tech space, there are some young businesses which are absolutely thriving. Look at livestreamed game app HQ Trivia. The game launched in 2016 and has already raised funding to give it a $100 million valuation (£70,405,000). More than two million players joined a HQ game hosted by Dwayne Johnson recently.
According to a recent report by Pitchbook, 16 companies have already crossed the billion-dollar valuation mark in 2018 to gain the coveted title of ‘unicorn’. These include four-year-old design software firm Canva; two-year-old Chinese entertainment site Qutoutiao; and three-year-old Samsara, creator of internet-connected sensors.
Often the early days are when you’re most agile – you have more flexibility to grow quickly and easily.
I remember when UKFast was just beginning, of course, those first few months were incredibly hard work. Gail (pictured above) and I worked all hours, we wore every hat that the business needed. We learned to code, to build websites, we learned all about hosting. We were the founders, the sales team, the cleaners, the accountants and the technical team. It was an incredible experience but we certainly had to put in a huge amount of work and make a lot of sacrifices too.
But, once we grew from there, we took on a few team members and began to find our feet. Externally we may have been seen as a ‘fragile start-up’ but we were in one of the most exciting phases that a business can be in. We were constantly innovating, learning new skills and evolving. We were on the cutting edge – and that’s something we continue to do today.
Back then it was very difficult to break into business because if you were young it was seen as a disadvantage. Now it’s fantastic! People are much more accepting of youthful talent because we know the energy and passion that these young entrepreneurs bring.
The secret of real success is being able to behave like a start-up. By its very nature the bigger a business gets, it becomes much harder to continue that. Anybody wanting to turn their business into a success would do well to listen to the businesses around them. Look out for the BusinessCloud or UKFast events which provide the perfect opportunity to learn from one another.
Being able to maintain that culture of a start-up, constantly innovating, is like finding the business fountain of youth.
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