When elephants start up. The dilemma of starting up in mid life

When elephants start up. The dilemma of starting up in mid life

Wednesday June 10, 2015,

5 min Read


For someone new to the startup world, what is it to think of staring up at mid-life? There are a lot of mixed feelings. There is this weird feeling or realization about getting old and not accomplishing enough. And on the other hand, there are these small success stories one cherishes. It's a difficult to take the plunge when in mid life.

Lives and perceptions of starting up behind the enterprise glass wall is an ‘eye candy’. Onlookers see this journey as cool, it is gutsy, it is awesome, it’s freedom, and Nirvana.

People who have completed the best half of their professional lives want to startup, and their motives behind it could be as varied as…

  • My friends, relatives, and colleagues love my idea; it is going to be super-hit. My millions are near.
  • I operated large-scale projects/organizations in my past-life, startup is just about managing myself and my crew; it’s a piece of cake.
  • I'm well connected I can make things happen.
  • My friends are willing to support me.
  • I have my cash flow managed for one year, by then I would have built my million dollar idea.
  • I'm frustrated working in confined organisational structure, I want to break free.
  • Kids out of colleges have built startups, why not me?
  • Someone is ready to spend money on me.
  • I fancy calling myself an entrepreneur.
  • My wife is very supportive.
  • We friends want to do something awesome; we have some money to spend.
  • My kids are still small; this is my one last chance.
  • I want to close my home loans faster.

Often there is a clear divide between aspirations and sensibility. Change is good, but the ability to handle change is where success is.

For many, starting-up at mid-life is a dream come true. In reality, it needs a lot of unlearning. Of course, having experience in terms of age does matter a lot. But the human mind is trained to handle things only from known circumstances not from the unknown.

Startup is all about reaching out to that unknown space. It is all about making ideas happen with less control on things around you. It is about always working with constraints.

Cushy corporate jobs have a good framework, and boundaries are defined and you are expected to work at your best capacity under well managed, governed and established eco-system.

Starting up is like handling your new born. Everyone can tell you what to do and what not to do but at the end of the day you need to handle it. You will get better as you learn. Facts state that mid-life is a period characterized by unstable mental and emotional health altering the course of lives of many adults.

Mid-life is the time in your life to take you career to the next level. Ideas of starting up are just another distraction if you are not serious about it.

Starting up at a young age has many benefits, there are no strings attached. In mid-life, these decisions are often catastrophic if your vision and directions are not well guided.

There are a lot of brave ones, who have gone out and ventured to find their place in the eco-system. It is just the question of sustainability or achieving heights.

If sustainability is the criteria, then your corporate jobs are better-off, stress free and well paid when compared to starting up.

A few things you might have to think before embarking into the startup journey. These include:

  • If you are in a well guided eco-system, then think of starting up. If you are not into it, seek and find such an eco-system where you can learn, share and validate your motives.
  • Family comes first and then your EMIs. Be sure you will be able to survive the tide even if you have to stay afloat for a long time with no help coming.
  • Financial commitments kills your focus, keep it low.
  • Mitigate your financial gains, if your wife is working and taking a good pay home, Awesome! Good luck with your venture.
  • Know your strengths, don’t experiment too much and stay calm, stay focused.
  • A good conditioning on the domain that you want to create a dent in will add a lot of value. Know your pot holes.
  • Know your connections that will help your business grow, create relationship.
  • Don't make friends your partners, make partners your friends.
  • Find right partners, who are doers not speculators.
  • Don't allow your mid-life crisis to push you into the adventure of starting up.
  • Take advice, keep it as discretionary. They won't know what you are going through.
  • You don't have to know everything, whatever you know do at your best.

The mid-lifers are not lean. We are elephants. Elephants have huge appetites, act and do things like an elephant.

Scientists have found the key personalities of elephants by watching them for 38 years and analyzing their 26 types of behaviors.

These personalities help them survive and thrive even under harsh conditions, threats, and adversities like starvation and drought.

  • Elephants are leaders
  • They have the ability to influence others & sustain relationships
  • Their "let's go" rumbles, it helps the team to stay focused and motivated
  • They have problem solving ability & social permissiveness
  • They are curious & active
  • They are playful
  • They are reliable & consistent and make good decisions
  • They are helpful, caring and can stay calm
  • They mentor young ones

Eventually, it is the ability to influence the movements and give a direction to the team, which is the biggest success factor for grey-haired startups to win.

Technology is the vehicle to take your idea to the next level, don't get bogged down with the technical debts you have accumulated over the years, hire wisely. There is nothing that can stop you from reaching your goals, what you pursue costs time, effort and money.

If your conviction is clear and if you feel the idea you are working is worth dying for go for it.

What are your thoughts? Do you have had similar experiences? Do drop in a comment or mail us at [email protected]

image credit: Shutter Stock

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