A few thoughts from Rob Bye, the CEO and co-foudner of Availo, about his experince of running a startup at a young age and what he thinks young founders need to do to stay on top of their game.
I turned 25 last week and one of the most common questions I get asked is how I find running a company and dealing with that responsibility at a young age. And it has to be said that this question is definitely asked more in London than in Silicon Valley. In fact, I don’t think anyone in San Francisco ever asked me this before. After working out there for a few months last year, it became apparent that no-one really cared how old you were as people respected you based purely on merit and your character. If anything, the younger you were the more appealing investors found you. They knew you were hungry, willing to listen and were willing to work hard to get there.
After chatting to a few friends who still work out there, we realised one of the most beneficial things about being young and in leadership is that you’re not only willing to make mistakes. You’re also honest and open about making them. Plus, you believe that you and the team can overcome them together.
In short, you’re confident in your ability to become the person needed to run a company, but know you need to improve and learn a huge amount to get there. Some (not all!) senior founders believe they are already capable of running a company due to their own ability and previous experience. And this can sometimes then lead to them being more risk averse and definitely less honest about making mistakes when things go wrong. They effectively believe they know enough to get it right.
Young founders should be humble enough to know they don’t have a clue about the majority of what they are doing and be willing enough to listen to others and gain advice. Getting incredible mentors and experienced advisors is been a massive help to any young founder. And this, in addition to building a team of people more experienced than yourself, means your company has a huge amount of collective knowledge and experience. Coupled with a hunger for trying things and not being intimidated by failure.
Availo’s founding team covers me as a single 25-year-old with 3 years experience. Nick Wood in his 30’s with a long term partner and 10 years experience. Through to Nick Clement, who’s in who’s 40 with a wife, a kid, a mortgage and so much valuable industry experience. This contrast makes our founding team incredibly strong. They keep us in line and focussed when needed, and I keep us hungry to push hard and learn more.
So yes, being young and running a company is extremely challenging at times. But so long as you’re honest with your team, open about the challenges you face, and willing to listen and improve, being young can actually be extremely beneficial.