Age and entrepreneurship

A very intense probe my Marc Andreesen on the relationship between age and entrepreneurship and a very insightful response by Naval Ravikant.

Both posts are long. I felt tired in the end.  I’ll distil it for you.

Marc’s findings –

·         Generally, productivity — output — rises rapidly from the start of a career to a peak and then declines gradually until retirement.

·         This peak in productivity varies by field, from the late 20s to the early 50s, for reasons that are field-specific.

·         Precocity, longevity, and output rate are linked. “Those who are precocious also tend to display longevity, and both precocity and longevity are positively associated with high output rates per age unit.” High producers produce highly, systematically, over time.

·         The odds of a hit versus a miss do not increase over time. The periods of one’s career with the most hits will also have the most misses. So maximizing quantity — taking more swings at the bat — is much higher payoff than trying to improve one’s batting average.

·         Intelligence, at least as measured by metrics such as IQ, is largely irrelevant.

Naval’s response –

“I started with a variation of the Beard Hypothesis (enthusiasm decreases with age but experience increases, and there’s an optimum cross-over point). This is the easiest viewpoint as you get older and look back at some of your earlier crazier ideas, but notice that that older crowd is very risk-averse. Douglas Adams had a great take on it:

  1. “everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
  2. anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
  3. anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
  4. Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.”

Marc threw a couple of challenges to the readers to see if they can fit into the model and to see if entrepreneurship peaks while you are young or does it when you hover past 30’s well into the evening of your lives. (Hat tip: Ben Casnocha)

I go that entrepreneurship is not something to be straitjacketed or romanticized.  It happens at the confluence of an early sighting of an opportunity by a motivated, competent founder that has the appetite for risk; a resultant drive that stops at nothing until it’s tried, tested and executed.  Not just hard work, it’s filled with despair, frustration, sacrifice (of salary, family life, entertainment) besides passion.  It recognizes neither age nor eminence; first-hand experience and wisdom are its bye-products and is romantic, if at all, only in hindsight…

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