THIS WEEK was an exciting time in the city: FCSWFort Collins Startup Week.  There were a tremendous number of activities, presentations, competitions – and face-to-face connections.  I was honored to be a startup mentor, meeting with people who are launching their creative ventures.

It’s awe-inspiring what some of these folks are coming up with.

But there’s a general perception that this is a young person’s game.  Older folks don’t have the energy and inspiration to go out there and so something that’s risky and edgy.  Right?

First, I have to admit that there’s a kernel of truth in this view.  Being 59 myself, I understand that I look at risk differently than I did when I was 25.  But that’s not a bad thing, and it didn’t stop me from starting my own business five years ago.

Older folks, myself included, tend to have more resources.  This makes it possible to do greater things and take significant risks.  And we also have a lifetime of experience which helps us focus on deeper values, things which will have more lasting impact.  Often these ventures will be less sexy, but that’s quite OK.

Younger entrepreneurs don’t tend to have that life experience, but it can work to their benefit:  They don’t feel as constrained by “the normal way to do things.”  Combined with boundless energy and amazing passion, they’ll come up with more weird and groundbreaking ideas.  Many of those ideas may be wildly impractical, but there will be time to learn and adjust and move on to the next one.

This can lead to ADHD-like behavior, of course, with a young entrepreneur becoming eager to move onto the next inspiration before giving the prior one enough time to succeed.

An interesting model that I’ve seen emerging is to combine the young with the old, to leverage the best of both worlds.  I was talking to one gentleman this week, fresh out of school, who started up a new business with his parents.  Assuming that they can work together as a team, won’t that be a great way to tap experience while leveraging the boundless energy?

This week’s mentor sessions were also part of that.  It’s a great way to get the generations working together with each other, learning, and being creative.  And it’s a resource that an entrepreneur can tap well before hiring any employees.

I heard a great quote recently:

“Great partners are those who share your values, but have different skills and will question HOW you’re doing things” – Dr Prasad Kaipa

What a great way to look for advisers, partners, and supporters!  Remember that those “different skills” may come from a person who’s significantly older or younger than you.  Or from a different race, social class, or gender.

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