6 responses to “At Age 35 Mozart Was Dead”

  1. Jason M. Lemkin

    Having founded companies both before and after 35, I fear this adage is correct. The reason being, after 35, you won’t do something impossible. Before that, you might, because you don’t know better.

  2. Paul Michaud

    Thats true but from the perspective of a VC like Mike, you want a founder that will stretch for something thats a bit on the edge, but not necessarily impossible. The older entrepreneur if they are good is likely to have just enough sense to know the difference where the younger person won’t. In the first case the VC has a chance at a home run if the difference is identified early. In the latter case you throw your money away more times than not.

    I could be wrong though.

  3. michaelwdenis

    Excellent and thought provoking comments on the VC community, which parallels my own experience via an Aerospace SaaS offering where our partnership included a 65y/o retired airline COO / retired USAF LTG and a 55y/o Ops Research Ph.D. who started his aviation career with Sabre (possibly the most profitable SaaS companies ever) and myself – the youngster at age 40 – fresh out of six years at Accenture and 12 years as a Navy Engineer.

    Given our credentials we received a lot of meetings and 0 funding offers.

    And at the end of the day I learned a lot from those meetings with VCs and PE Firms and very grateful none of them funded us – because – I would have been giving away a considerable amount of money.

    As you said, “If I knew then what I know now (god I do sound like an old fart don’t I), I truly believe the story would have been very different.”

    I changed the partnership – two 45y/o now – self funded the basic capability and will be cash flow positive with the next customer.

    The difference between the youngsters and the “Dead Heads” might be patients and wisdom.

    The patients to not give up and to stick to your passion – and – the wisdom to know what is versus is not working and to see alternatives to someone else’s “no”.

  4. Jim Geisman

    Saw your comment on a LinkedIn group and thought I might share this with you, Paul, in case you missed it…

    There are probably more “elderly” (i.e. over 35 y.o.) entrepreneurs than the VCs are likely to see – especially in high tech.

    VCs invest for one reason: get out with a lot more money than what they invested. Therefore VCs can’t invest in most start-ups because most wind up being slow-growth, modestly-sized and, if successful, throw off enough cash to be mostly self-funding. These companies are not IPO material and most likely not an acquisition target either.

    (Take a look around at how many business there are that you would like a piece of the cashflow. How many of them are run by folks under 35 vs. the “elderly”?)

    Inherent in this model is the need to convince someone else to buy stock at an increased valuation — regardless of economic reality (i.e. revenues, positive cashflow). An essential ingredient to this increased valuation is visibility.

    And nothing is more visible than the younger entrepreneur given the media’s bias towards youth: “Gosh, isn’t that amazing what this person did”. Who wants to write about members of the over-the-hill gang? B-o-r-i-n-g (unless you write for Fortune or BusinessWeek).

    I won’t argue that the VCs Paul wrote about have done some wonderful things and are quite successful. But the bias towards youth in tech start-ups is a reminder that even monkeys can fall from trees (i.e. make mistakes).

  5. Paul Michaud

    Michael, I definitely agree with you. I think we older folks have the patients to stick it out, but also the wisdom to know when we are beat. On the other hand I must also admit that most of our age bracket lack the vision, creativity, drive and willingness to take risks to be a good entrepreneur. That said for those of us who do have those qualities I believe the total package is better than in a younger entrepreneur with a similar idea.

  6. Paul Michaud


    You are probably totally right re the optics of funding a younger person vs someone older. The marketing buzz is probably better all else equal.