A friend said to me, “What are you waiting for? Just go for it.”
If you want to validate your business idea and go beyond reading about startups, one way is to apply for startup courses provided by what are called “incubators”. Some programs last a few months and it’s a great way to figure out how to get started and if you have a viable solution. If you’re an underrepresented Founder (female, a veteran, person of color), you are especially encouraged to apply. Why? Because the world needs more people who have a different perspective and who see gaping problems that others may not see. It’s a chance to have a spot at the table and to make an impact. There are loads of startup courses available (TiE Bootcamp, Founders Gym, Kauffman FastTrac, Techstars are a few).
Read everything you can about things that interest you. Not only about startup founders but also about business news and read as much as you can about trends. In order to gain more insight about what it’s really like to put yourself out there and take the leap, read the book, “Lost and Founder”, by Rand Fiskin. It’s brutally honest, exciting and humbling all rolled into one.
Here are a few things I learned during my TiE XL Bootcamp experience:
- Honest Feedback. Some people thought my idea was terrible. Others thought it was disruptive and awesome. Embrace all the feedback and keep going. When one advisor challenged a student and asked him hard questions, he never returned to class. And that was on day three.
- Expect a Rollercoaster. I’d go from delusions of grandeur to crippling self-doubt on repeat a thousand times. I’m told this is normal.
- Do your homework. I had access to really bright advisors and took every opportunity to ask them questions. Practice. When they say the pitch is only 5 minutes, they mean it.
- You will not sleep soundly. I wondered if I was meant to be on this path and couldn’t sleep. If you are thinking about quitting a full-time job to be “all in”, expect even fewer REM moments.
- Put yourself out there. I’m a firm believer that magic happens when you go outside the lines. Do all the scary things. Meet interesting people and have no regrets.
People of all ages are starting companies. When applying for a startup incubator, remember that the judges do not care how old you are when you apply. They want good ideas and want to hear you articulate a problem you are passionate about and how you’ll move forward towards a solution.
Also, older founders tend to be more successful. A 2018 study* found the “batting average” for creating successful firms rises dramatically with age. “A 50-year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely to achieve upper-tail growth than a 30-year-old founder” the research concluded.
If you’ve always been startup curious, midlife is a great time to start.
*Source: by MIT, Northwestern and the Census Bureau Center for Research
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Emily’s vision for illume hire developed as part of her journey from a startup-curious sales and marketing professional to co-founder and CEO. Her passion is to provide the tools and community to support other mid-career professionals to maximize their mid-career momentum. In addition to her work with illume hire, Emily is part of the founding leadership team of Age Equity Alliance, a non-profit focused on age diversity in the workplace