Just Raised- 04/29/2022
By Alan Soclof
3 BIG STORIES
Meeting With Mark…
Last Thursday started off like any other day. I woke up, put my nutritious Eggo Waffles in the toaster, and poured myself a nice glass of cold seltzer (yes, not coffee).
Things went from ordinary to extraordinary during my 10 o’clock Zoom meeting, where I had the privilege of talking with the CEO of a startup that was raising a significant seed round (several millions). Let’s call this CEO Mark.
Mark was different than many of the other founders I’ve had the privilege of meeting since I kicked off my journey at Just Raised. He’s probably in his mid-40s and has had a magical run in his professional career, rising to the highest ranks and working with executives at companies that we all know. He’s also seen great success starting and running his own consulting businesses, which he ultimately sold.
Now, he was looking to swing for the fences and create a product-driven startup solving a massive opportunity that he saw in his industry.
There were four things that jumped out to me regarding Mark:
- Deep industry expertise
- High-quality, genuine connections
- Access to capital
- A clear and focused vision for his company
The moment our call ended, it was clear to me:
“Holy sh*t, my parents were right… Again.”
Right about what?
When I was at home during the beginning of COVID, my mom shot over a Wired story regarding how the best founders are often middle-aged.
Here are a couple of stats from that story:
- A 40 year old is 2.1x as likely to found a successful startup than a 25 year old.
- A 55 year old is 3.4x more likely to found a successful startup than a 25 year old.
What is the weirdest part about this study? How often we always discuss the young dropouts from school starting the next big company, while interestingly, only 40% of founders are under 40!
Simply put, the study quoted in the article is clear: entrepreneurs are usually like a good, fine wine: the older, the better.
What I found even more interesting was that companies growing at the highest 0.1% velocity had founders whose average age was 45.
After my conversation with Mark, I wanted to share what I picked up from him and why I think this is the case.
1. Deep industry expertise
“Experience is the comb that nature gives us after we are bald.”
Think about all of the conversations that Mark has had in his career, all of the good (and bad) decisions he has made and witnessed. He watched business decisions and strategies play out as an intern, an employee, a manager, and an owner. These experiences are priceless and something that cannot be replicated by a 25 year old.
You know what’s nice about living longer lives? We can get the comb before we go bald!
2. High quality, genuine connections
“The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.” –Bob Burg, Business Author
It’s hard to bully your way to the top. When I talked to Mark, it was clear he was just as focused on how he could help me as how I could help him. He was so genuine,too.
Oftentimes, younger founders can find themselves more focused on what their connections can do for them and their journey. This is 100% natural as younger people, are looking to establish themselves. However, sincerity and mutual give-and-take are how you build the strongest relationships.
Invest in networking at a younger age and give yourself time to watch the relationships strengthen and play out, and in a couple decades you’ll look up and see that many of your connections are in incredibly impactful positions.
3. Access to capital
“Money is oxygen.”
How many failed startups are there that would have been successful if they’d only had more funds? Raising money can be painful, and for younger founders, it’s extraordinarily difficult.
Your friends likely don’t have money, and your lack of experience handling large sums of money makes it difficult for VCs to commit.
On the other hand, if you’ve been working in the corporate world and know how to invest and save, by the time you’re in your 40s you might have your own capital to put behind your own ideas.
Plus, your personal friends and your professional network likely have significantly more funds to invest with you than when you were fresh out of school.
A $20K friends and family round vs. a $200K round can make all the difference in the world.
4. Clear and focused vision
The younger you are, the larger your dreams and aspirations are—and rightfully so. The realities of life have hopefully not beaten you down, and you feel like you have decades to make serious changes in the world.
These dreams and aspirations are amazing, however, I feel that the tendency to have a big vision rather than a more focused one often comes back to bite younger founders. They want to create the next Google, while older founders understand how difficult it is to disrupt heavy hitters and are more niche-focused.
A couple months back, I witnessed this lesson play out first hand when I connected with Colin Read, CEO of Whoosh. Whoosh is a SaaS platform for private golf clubhouses that recently raised a $6M Series A from Craft Ventures. During my conversation with Colin, my mind was racing with all of the applications where their software could succeed. The opportunity is huge.
Colin, however, mentioned that he recognized this opportunity, but that goal was more in his periphery. The company is laser-focused on disrupting the golf industry because doing that is hard enough.
This was the difference in process between someone in their 20s and someone in their 40s playing out in real life.
Wrapping It Up
If you’re a 25-year-old founder pouring your heart and soul into your business, all these stats and observations about the perks of being a mature founder probably didn’t make you feel great.
So should you just give up?
Actually, my advice is the total opposite. I’m a big believer in shooting your shot and going after your dreams. You only get one bite at this apple and you want to make sure it is a good one — and that it’s a honeycrisp apple.
So what’s my advice?
Douglas Leone is currently the Managing Director at Sequoia Capital. In 2014, the then 57-year-old Leone shared this quote during a speech at the Stanford Business Schoo,l to a class of students:
“I don’t want to hang out with people like me. I don’t want to hang out with old people. I want to hang out with people like you.”
Building off of Leone’s thoughts, here’s what I think:
When you’re old, you should think young, and when you’re young, you should think old.
Surround yourself with mentors and advisors that not only look good on the pitch deck, but are also willing to invest in you and impart serious wisdom. Find mentors who are willing to tell stories about the best and the worst moments in their career—the big moments that defined their careers, but also the small moments that had much bigger consequences than they thought they would.
Gather advisors that will be real with you and tell you exactly what you do not want to hear before what you want to hear. Try and mentally get closer to being a 35-year-old founder than a 25-year-old one.
This is how you can defy the odds and be a big reason why the average age of successful founders starts creeping younger.
CHART OF THE DAY
- Google had the most active FAMGA venture arm in 2021 completing 124 investments. For reference, Microsoft did ~50 deals in 2021
- Healthcare & life sciences dominated their investments with 42% of them being from this sector
- GV participated in several multi hundred million dollar Series rounds in the life sciences space including Adagio Therapeutics, EQRx, Prime Medicine, Insitro and more
Q: In 2005, Facebook raised a Series A. Who led the investment and how much was it?
Here are three of my favorite jobs from the startup/VC world today. Click here to post a job on the Just Raised Job Board and get it featured.
Fanatics is the Amazon of sports. They operate a killer apparel site, launched a sportsbook, gained rights to sports cards/NFTS, and more. Last summer the company raised a $325M round of funding at a $18B valuation. This Product Manager role is focused on building and scaling the company’s new gambling efforts, and based on Fanatics history, it will be massive.
Culture Biosciences, Bioprocess Applications Specialist
Anyone who knows the biotech R&D space knows how lengthy the process can be. That’s why Culture Biosciences—a company that makes bio reactors so companies can optimize their manufacturing processes—is such a hot company. After raising an $80M Series in October, the company is taking their growth to another level and looking for a bioprocess application specialist to work closely with the company’s customers.
EasyKnock is a company that make it easy for homeowners to unlock the equity from their home. Off a fresh round of funding in early February ($57M Series C), the company has their eyes set even higher and are looking for their next data engineer to make this a reality. In this position, the data engineer will be tasked with enabling and enhancing the company’s data capabilities.View More →
- Jose Alvarado is my spirit animal. What a gritty player! Check out this highlight of his sneaky play on Chris Paul
- This clip from the end of Twins & Tigers looks like it was straight out of my high school baseball freshman year season — incredibly ugly
- Very interesting thread by teammate Trung Phan on the arrest of Bill Hwang, founder of Archeagoes Capital.
- Musk’s tweet below is funny, but what really took my breath away is the engagement! Holy cow!