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Annie Qureshi

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Myth of the learning curve for tech entrepreneurs

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Starting a technology based business is not for the faint of heart. You need stellar technical competencies, plenty of confidence and must be flexible to change.

The trials and tribulations of starting a technology company are difficult for anyone. Many business pundits warn that they are even more challenging for entrepreneurs over 40. There is some truth to this, because older entrepreneurs must learn new skill sets and become more resilient to change.

This doesn't mean that entrepreneurs over 40 are doomed to fail. Older entrepreneurs tend to be much more successful. Their life experience and wisdom gives them a powerful edge over their younger competitors. Lynda Weinman, a 40-something year old computer whiz founded Lynda.com, a technology based trading company. Herbert Boyer, co-founder of Genetech and Bob Parsons, founder of Godaddy, were also over 40 when they launched some of the most successful technology companies ever.

They just need to play to their strengths and mentally prepare themselves for the turbulent changes they will face.

Here are some tips they should follow.

Don't Let Your Age be a Crutch

In 2011, Michael Arrington wrote a blog post for TechCrunch called "Internet entrepreneurs are like professional athletes, they peek at 25." Arrington's opinion has been the conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley and other technology hubs for decades. It has also been thoroughly debunked.

Research from the Kaufman Foundation shows that the average successful entrepreneur is 40 years old.

“Founders tended to be middle-aged—40 years old on average—when they started their first companies. Nearly 70 percent were married when they became entrepreneurs, and nearly 60 percent had at least one child, challenging the stereotype of the entrepreneurial workaholic with no time for a family.”

There are twice as many successful founders over 50 as there are in their 20s. The truth is that the successful young entrepreneur is the exception rather than the rule.

Unfortunately, older entrepreneurs can start a business believing that they'll be fighting an uphill battle their entire career. Their defeatist mindset becomes a self-filling prophecy.

Don't give into that way of thinking.

Play to Your Strengths Instead of Focusing on Your Weaknesses

Every entrepreneur has their set of strengths and weaknesses. You may never have written a line of code in your life, but have 20 years of experience in the financial industry. Your financial background gives you a strong headship over your stereotypical Silicon Valley programmer because cash flow management is a vital part of running any company.

You may not be the most personable guy in the world so that you won't make a great sales person. However, if you have spent ten years as a programmer, you will have A strong edge in other ways.

You may discover hidden talents you never signed yourself during your youth. However, it is more likely that you will need to play to your strengths. You can always align yourself with partners or employees that have the skills you lack.

Use Proven Learning Hacks

One of my colleagues is a 50-something year old man that moved to Northern California from South Africa. He spent 20 years of his life working in human resources before deciding to try his hand at online marketing. He discovered that he was a talented marketer, but had to work hard to learn more about his new profession.

My colleague said that using proven learning tools and hacks helped him immensely. You should follow the same guidelines. If you are starting an ecommerce business, you can research the different ecommerce terms in less than an hour. You can spend a few days reading blogs and forums, such as AffPlayBook, Search Engine Journal and Social Media Today. Many ecommerce platforms also have great resources for their users. For example, Shopify has a Business Encyclopedia to help new online entrepreneurs reduce their learning curve. Engineering organizations such as the IEEE also have valuable resources for their members.

Most importantly, you need to follow a learning methodology that works for you. Over the years, you have developed a number of shortcuts to help you process new information. Use the practices that worked for you.

Starting a Technology Business Over 40 Doesn’t Have to Be an Uphill Battle

Creating a successful technology business will be difficult for anyone. However, failure isn’t inevitable if you are over 40. Some of the best founders ever were past their prime by Silicon Valley standards. They just need to be able to respond easily to change.

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