Feature coming soon.

As part of our commitment to AlphaCode, our Product Team is continually working hard on adding exciting new features, along with functional improvements.

SME, Fintech

Age is but a number for entrepreneurs

Age is but a number for entrepreneurs

For many people, the word “entrepreneur” conjures up images of a 20-something tech genius who’s changed the world with a business built in their parents’ garage. The list of such success stories is long and topped by celebrities like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. But this false image of the definition of the word can limit people’s ambitions and put them completely off even trying to make a name for themselves with a new venture. As it turns out, this needn’t be the case. A study by MIT earlier this year found that successful entrepreneurs are more likely to be middle-aged than in the first flushes of youth. The average age of founders who started a high-growth company is, in fact, 45. So, which is better: younger with fewer responsibilities, or older with greater experience? We asked some of South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs for their perspective on the age question.

Experience can be the best teacher…

Schalke Nolte started Entersekt, a provider of next-generation authentication and mobile app security, when he was 31 years old. While he doesn’t believe age is a determinant of success, he does believe the corporate experience he gained in his 20s was advantageous. “While I don’t think that older is better, some business experience is beneficial. It taught me how to drive delivery through confident leadership, and gave me a deeper sense of how to avoid certain pitfalls”, he says. Corporate experience is so important to Schalke’s mind, that he advises entrepreneurs with no prior business experience to actively seek it out from business-savvy mentors and board members. “The Entersekt co-founders were fresh out of university when we formed the company, and they had great ideas. Combining that with my business experience helped us get seed capital to ensure that we had the right resources to get our product ready for market”, he says.

…but not always

Cameron Stevens of Prodigy Finance, a borderless credit system enabling access to higher education for students from emerging markets, believes that this corporate experience isn’t always a good thing. “Sometimes being younger means you’ve had less time to be unhelpfully moulded by the business world”, he says. But he does agree that younger is not necessarily better. “I was 28 years old when I started Prodigy Finance. I don’t think age per se is important when you start up a new company”, he says. This is his third start-up; his first entrepreneurial venture was at age 19 while he was at university and his second was at 22, each of which were successful. “Being slightly older when I started Prodigy Finance has been beneficial primarily because I had greater access to funds, better confidence, an extensive network (particularly of angel investors) and some additional credibility”, he says.

Personality trumps youth

The perception is that the younger you are, the more willing you are to take on risks. While both Nolte and Stevens agree being younger generally does equate to having fewer responsibilities and dependents, they also both believe a person’s ability to take risks is more related to the individual’s personality than to their age. “Learning the art of taking a calculated risk is beneficial, no matter what your age”, he says. Stevens agrees that it’s down to the individual. “As a younger entrepreneur you can have more energy, more go-getting passion and a keener sense of accomplishing the impossible. But really, it’s all about the individual’s level of maturity and the exogenous circumstances. You need to have the confidence, network and access to some level of funding”, he says. In his view, what makes a successful entrepreneur is dogged determination, an energetic passion, a contrarian nature and a well-defined mission. “But most important is the irrational belief that you can succeed despite the naysaying”, he says. For Nolte, it’s all about the mind-set. “It takes a certain can-do mindset to take on something that does not yet exist, or to enter an established and competitive industry”, he says. Self-belief, a good dose of stubbornness, and above all, determination to take on all the odds to keep at it day after day, is also critical. “That being said, it’s important to remember that you can’t do it all alone. Ensure that you have a team you trust, and allow them to do what they are great at”, he says.

It’s never too late

At the end of the day, there are a number of factors that will determine your success as an entrepreneur. You could get the mix right in your 20s, or it could all come together in your 40s. While being older can be advantageous in some respects, so can being younger. Either way, there’s no need to be disheartened. If you’re in your 20s, take heart from the fact that you have many years in which to realise your dream. If you’re in your 40s, take heart from the fact that you’re not “too old” to take the plunge and make that big idea into reality.

Related Articles

Join AlphaCode

Are you ready to take your fintech business to the next level?Join the growing network of fintech disruptors shaping the future of our industry.

  • Green

    Membership

    Green membership is available to aspiring financial services entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and service providers.

    • Monthly newsletter with key industry insights, trends and news
    • Access to open networking events hosted at AlphaCode
    Join now
  • Gold

    Membership

    Our gold membership is open to financial services founders and co­founders with a full-time commitment to their businesses.

    • Access to our co­-working office space in Sandton
    • Business support services
    • Access to exclusive networking events & hosted dinners
    • Acceleration and incubation support
    • Informal mentorship from the RMIH investment team
    • Exclusive applications to competitions and conferences
    • Access to AlphaCode vetted service providers
    • Exposure to commercial opportunities
  • Platinum

    Membership

    Offered to high­ potential BBBEE businesses that have received enterprise development funding.

    • Free semi­-private office space for 6 months in Sandton
    • Business support services
    • Informal mentorship from the RMIH investment team
    • Access to exclusive networking events & hosted dinners
    • Exclusive applications to competitions and conferences
    • Acceleration and incubation support
    • Access to AlphaCode vetted service providers
    • Exposure to commercial opportunities within and outside the portfolio companies
  • Diamond

    Membership

    Offered by invitation only to businesses which have received growth capital investment from RMIH.

    • Receive growth capital investment from RMIH
    • Access to a co-­working office space in Sandton
    • Business support services
    • Access to exclusive networking events & hosted dinners
    • Formal mentorship from the RMIH investment team
    • Exclusive applications to competitions
    • Access to AlphaCode vetted service providers
    • Exposure to commercial opportunities within and outside the portfolio companies
    • Exclusive applications to competitions and conferences

Member testimonials

  • Alpha Code is a phenomenal platform to network with next generation fintech players offering leading thought leadership events in a world class environment. Look forward to watching the ecosystem facilitate the next ‘Uber’ of Africa.

    Dov Girnum, CEO Merchant Capital

  • Starting a business is a daunting prospect, especially one that has a focus on an unproven and experimental technology. I have benefitted enormously from the support and wisdom I have received from AlphaCode during my time as a member.

    Lorien Gamaroff, CEO Bankymoon

  • Being located in the heart of Africa's biggest financial services hub, we have gained a lot of credibility through AlphaCode. Our customers trust our brand by association, which results in increased sales of cows.

    Ntuthuko Shezi, CEO Livestock Wealth

  • AlphaCode is without a doubt the premium fintech and startup community in South Africa providing many learning, growth and network opportunities and an environment which adds concrete value to us

    Schalk Nolte, Founder Entersekt

  • Slide is now well on the way to causing significant disruption in the South African fintech sector. We would not have been able to break into the South African market so rapidly without the help provided by AlphaCode.

    Alon Stern, Founder Slide

  • AlphaCode has been instrumental in providing a platform for us to access industry thought leaders, networks, working space, coaching and ultimately the opportunity to pitch to global multi-nationals and secure funding that very few startups get to land in their first year.

    Priya Mistry, Founder CommuScore

  • AlphaCode has been instrumental in the growth of our business. Through the club, we have met many like-minded entrepreneurs and businesses with whom we have formed strategic partnerships. The team is incredibly generous with their time and continue to give us invaluable mentorship and support.

    Annabel Dallamore, CEO StriderTech