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Innovation Blog

Oldiepreneurs:  Gold Among Those Silver Threads

By Shlomo Maital

  Darling, we are growing old, silver threads among the gold…

    Darling, we are growing old,  this will make us far more bold…

  The first line is real, from a familiar song anyone over 80 years old will know.  The second line…I made it up.  But it reflects a trend, discussed in Peter Day’s BBC Global Business program.   Because of demographic aging, young people are scarce in Japan, Europe and even increasingly in China (because of the one-child policy).   As a result, countries will increasingly have to look elsewhere for entrepreneurial energy — perhaps to the oldies.

    Day notes that in Britain, some estimates show as many as one-fourth of all new startups are launched by people 55 or older.   In my own experience, one of Israel’s most successful serial entrepreneurs,  Shimon Ekhouse,  retired from a leading government high-tech company at age 48,  and began launching the first of (ultimately) nine successful startups (he’s on his ninth right now).   

    I think older people have many advantages as entrepreneurs. They have oodles of life experience.  They have time, if they are pensioners.  They have their pension, which provide security if they go bust, and some basic cash flow to start out.  They have many friends and contacts.  And they have intimate knowledge of a new, rich and promising market — oldies themselves! 

     The main obstacle?  I think it is simply mindset.  Pensioners simply do not think about the possibility of launching a business. But they should. And society should help them.  What about starting a VC fund dedicated solely to funding startups launched by oldies? 

    What about building a system, where young entrepreneurs are partnered with silver-haired oldies, combining youthful energy with senior life-experience? 

     There is definitely gold in those silver-haired oldies.   But gold has to be mined.   Countries that do such mining with persistence and wisdom will gain an important new resource.   

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Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
February 2010
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