Business Innovation from Senior Entrepreneurs? Yes!

Are You Telling Me I Can't Innovate?

Are You Telling Me I Can’ Innovate?

Today I experimented; I Googled “Senior Entrepreneurs” and “Innovation” together.  0.44 seconds later I had 369 results.  Just 369.

We are very busy talking about the surge in senior entrepreneurs.  Innovation is one of today’s most-discussed topics.  But there is almost no one discussing business innovation via seniors.  Doesn’t that strike you as odd, very odd?

If so many seniors are starting new businesses, and business innovation is so very important to entrepreneurship, why isn’t anyone talking about it?  “Seniorpreneurs” or “encore entrepreneurs” are described as starting new businesses based on their long work experience, or their network of connections, or turning an avocation into a business.  They’re described as being ideally qualified to lead, guide or manage teams of  younger innovators.  But as innovators?  Not so much.

I think there’s one good reason why senior innovators aren’t getting attention, and two rather bad ones.

One Good Reason

A fair amount of survey work has been done (separately) on entrepreneurs and inventors.  In almost every survey, the median age for both entrepreneurs and inventors is around 40.  Yes, the trend is toward older entrepreneurs and inventors, but the shift mirrors the developed world’s aging population demographics.

Two Rather Bad Reasons

“People under 35 are the people who make change happen,” said venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, “People over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas.”

The venture capitalists of Silicon Valley should know…. shouldn’t they?  Well, they certainly know their self selected ecosystem.  And therein lies some very narrow reasoning about the originators of business innovation.

Venture capitalists are focused on startups with two specific qualities.  First, the business model has to scale and the founder team has to want to scale, because that’s the way the venture community profits from its investments.  Small startups have to grow to very big companies.  Second, this venture capital bubble, like the bubble before it, is strongly skewed towards technology investment.  As a result, “making change happen” really means growing a very big company , and “new ideas” really means new technology.

But in the real world, most change and most innovation isn’t technology based.  And in the real world, small businesses account for the vast majority of business activity.  That’s why, in the real world, there are lots and lots of innovative seniorpreneurs.

Sources of Business Innovation

Let’s close by reminding ourselves of the broad scope of sources of innovation, as explained by Peter Drucker:

  • The unexpected – the unexpected success, the unexpected failure, the unexpected outside event
  • The incongruity – between reality as it actually is and reality as it is assumed to be or “ought to be”
  • Innovation based on process need
  • Changes in industry structure or market structure that catch everyone unawares
  • Demographics – population changes
  • Changes in perception, mood and meaning
  • New knowledge – scientific and non-scientific

There’s a whole world of business innovation waiting to be unlocked by seniorpreneurs.  Oh, and…  they’re already doing it.

Want to Read More About Business Innovation Right Now?

We assembled a  great short article about places to innovate, qualities of innovators, and innovation truths.  It will take just 5 minutes to read, but it offers a lot to ponder, and practical advice you can use.

If you read this post and you’ve got grey hair like me, would you help us all out?  We’d like to hear about applying all that experience and all that perspective to innovation.   Have you got a story to share?






  1. JAMES OJUOK says:

    Very good read. I think countries like Japan and other Asian countries embrace senior innovators ..Their wide bath of experience and knowledge not only make them mentors but put them at a peak position when it comes to innovation.

  2. Chris Chadbourne says:

    I’m sorry, I should have provided a bit more background to this post. In the US especially, people think of technology when they think of entrepreneurship. When they think of technology, they think of young people. As a result, there’s a tendency to believe that people with grey hair can’t innovate. That’s actually not true, and in nations with aging populations (like the US and parts of Europe) the tendency can seriously limit the perceived pool of talent.

  3. Good read. Growing older doesn’t have to make your stop being innovative. There are plenty of baby boomers out there who are always coming up with new ideas in order to better help businesses succeed. I can understand that some are set in their ways, but it shouldn’t make them completely obsolete when it comes to managing a business. Thanks for the insight.

  4. Brilliant writing style. Vicissitude in writing niche occasionally are good. Keep writing!

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