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Sebastian Tschentscher with his Father

Is it actually better to start up early - say in your mid-20s - or later in life, say in your mid-40s? My thesis is: the advantages and disadvantages of founding late versus early will probably balance out: When you're young, your energy level is usually higher, you question the status quo more, and you're ready to change the world. Two decades later, you know better what really promises success, how best to approach things and how to emotionally digest setbacks.

When I graduated from high school in the nineties, I didn't know anyone who had founded. The questions everyone in my high school graduating class was asking were: doing an apprenticeship first or start studying right away? In the latter case: what is best to study? Many - like me - followed the exclusion principle: too lazy for medicine, not smart enough for science and math, didn't want to become a teacher, so the only options were business administration or law. Once you have completed your studies and started a career in a company, your path to retirement is often mapped out; at most, you change companies a few times and maybe even the industry. That's it.

So what do you need for a late startup? I think, above all, courage. And that's because you simply have more to lose than when you're younger. It's easy to calculate how long your savings will last to maintain your standard of living without new income. I did the same and doubted whether late self-employment was really the right thing to do.

Two considerations helped me to actually take the leap: first, the conviction that at some point I would otherwise regret not having done it. Second, a trip back in my past almost 40 years: At that time, I was in elementary school, my three brothers were doing community service or had already started their studies. Our father was a director in a trading company. When he quit to become an entrepreneur in the same field, he knew the industry and had his network, but whether the leap into self-employment would work was as uncertain as it always is. He took the plunge then and went on to be successfully entrepreneur for almost 30 years. The big difference to me today: He had four sons in education, who were still dependent on his support, at least in part. If he had the courage to start up at a late stage back then, I should be able to muster it without any support obligations.

I would very much like to discuss these thoughts with him today and share my worries and reflections with him. Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago. But I'm sure he would have said: Have courage!

About the author

Dr. Sebastian Tschentscher finds the best digital minds for your company with his executive search boutique "Digital Minds".

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