They say “experience is the best teacher.” And while there is a lot of truth to that saying, there is no denying that quite often, the unique perspectives and backgrounds of younger innovators can give them a distinct advantage over their older competitors.
Mansour Tawafi, president of Validus, whose startup achieved $200 million in revenue in the past year, is a prime example of this. At age 28, he has established himself as a leader in finance, investing and the metaverse, helping to usher in a new era of the “Dubai Dream.”
As Tawafi reveals, 20-something entrepreneurs have several noteworthy advantages that can help them succeed in a highly competitive market.
Fewer Personal Responsibilities
In the United States, the median age for giving birth has reached a new high of 30. The median age for first marriages in the United States has similarly increased over the years — and these trends are repeated across the globe. For entrepreneurs in their 20s, this can serve as a significant advantage.
“When you’re young and don’t yet have a family, children or other major responsibilities, you have more time to focus on your business,” Tawafi says. “You have greater flexibility in regards to your schedule and the types of risks you can reasonably take. The ability to freely invest in your own financial growth is a luxury that older competitors, who have more responsibilities outside of work, don’t have.”
Up-to-Date Technology Skills
There’s no denying that young people are generally more technologically proficient than their older peers. In a day and age when entrepreneurial endeavors are increasingly intertwined with technology, these skills can make all the difference in enjoying a successful launch and navigating a digitally interconnected world.
For example, access to big data and machine learning tools can help entrepreneurs quickly identify valuable insights for their business, regardless of age. While there is nothing that prevents older entrepreneurs from using this tech themselves, the mere existence of these tools helps younger founders close the experience gap.
Strong Networking Capabilities
Partially fueled by today’s technology boom, younger entrepreneurs have strong networking capabilities that can lead to dramatically improved outcomes for their business.
“Human connection is crucial for leadership and achieving success in a business,” Tawafi says. “Younger entrepreneurs have an advantage here because of their willingness to use a wide variety of social networking platforms and other digital tools to grow their network. Whether these tools are being used for marketing or to build business relationships, the fact that younger users are more comfortable with using a wide variety of these tools gives them more opportunities for growth.”
Open to Risks
Studies have found that as people age, they become less willing to take risks in a wide variety of areas — including economic decisions. For older entrepreneurs, this often means that they become more hesitant to make choices that could have a bigger payoff, simply because they are concerned about risk.
Despite his controversy, Elon Musk has made a name for himself by repeatedly being willing to take risks — even after he left his 20s behind. He took a risk by moving to the United States at age 17. He took a risk by dropping out of his PhD program at Stanford to form his first company, Zip2 Corporation. And a willingness to repeatedly take risks, unlike many of his older peers, has led him to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world.
Time to Learn and Grow
Regardless of their background, all 20-something entrepreneurs have one universal advantage over their older peers: time.
“Time is the most valuable resource anyone can have,” Tawafi says. “The younger you are when you start your entrepreneurial journey, the more time you have to grow and gain experience. You’ll be able to learn so many more lessons along the way if you start as an entrepreneur when you’re 20, rather than waiting until you are 30 or 40. Starting early essentially gives you a head start against everyone else — by the time you’re 30, you already have 10 years of experience under your belt that you can use to make your next business a success.”
Willingness to Challenge Status Quo
Finally, the mindset shared by many younger entrepreneurs can give them a winning advantage over older competitors. “As we grow older, we become more set in our ways, and less willing to think critically about the norms or expectations of our industry — of the business world in general,” Tawafi says.
“When you’re younger, you’re more open to reexamining the status quo and looking for better ways to do things. Not everything you try will ultimately work out, but because you’re willing to experiment, you can eventually discover better ways of doing things that other people might never consider. With the proper execution, you can become a leader who transforms your entire industry.”
Turn Youth Into an Advantage
While older competitors often have advantages of their own (particularly in regards to finances), there is no reason why younger entrepreneurs cannot achieve success in their business endeavors. With the right attitude — particularly a growth-oriented mindset and a willingness to take risks — young entrepreneurs can launch truly revolutionary businesses that leave a lasting impact.