Over the past year I have had the chance to advise, consult, and work at a number of early stage companies. And as I sit here on a flight to Silicon Valley this morning, I have a few seconds to reflect and come to the conclusion that I sure feel like I am in the prime of my startup-oriented career.
That might seem counter-intuitive to the meme that bounced around in various discussions that 20-something founders were kings and anyone over-30 need not apply. And the analogy is likely not that different to professional sports – sometimes the next hot thing is a rookie draft pick ala Lebron James and other times its a free agent veteran pickup like the Mets picking up Johann Santana.
But the sense I get in talking with other entreprenuers, vc’s, investors, startup execs is that experience and startup experience matter more then ever – the free agent market is hot so to speak. Maybe it’s because we’re entering a down-economic cycle where ideas matter less then execution. Maybe it’s because the dreamy euphoria of the web 2.0 boom is transitioning to a state of what’s real. Maybe it’s because investors are realizing that it’s sometimes best to diversify their portfolios to include some bets on horses with track records. And perhaps it’s a lot of being in the right place at the right time. Maybe us 35 year olds are finally coming up with the better ideas.
As I think about the mistakes and lessons I have learned since jumping headfirst into co-founding my first startup in 1997 and leaving the corporate world behind for good, I will say this: I am adding a lot more value in a lot more ways because of those learnings then I was when I first got started. And I imagine other folks in my shoes are feeling the exact same thing as we all seem to be hearing the same thing from VC’s and hiring startups – experience now required.
So if you’re the equivalent of a 20 games winner with a 3 ERA you’re in luck and demand.
Caveat: Proven experience at a large company does not always apply. Sort of like playing basketball in Europe or baseball in Japan. Success in one sphere doesn’t always apply to others especially when transitioning from the corporate world to the startup world.