Vivek Wadhwa is an Indian-American entrepreneur and academic who writes frequently, and often brashly, on the topic of innovation. I've always found his observations to be thought-provoking. His latest piece in the Washington Post is particularly so:
His article challenges an observation by well-known venture capitalist Vinod Khosla (of Khosla Ventures) on some of Khosla's comments at NASSCOM (see video). Here is the introductory portion of Wadhwa's article [all use of bold text in this post is mine - it's used for emphasis]:
“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.”
Khosla, who believes that old entrepreneurs can’t innovate because they keep “falling back on old habits,” said this at the NASSCOM Product Enclave in Bangalore, on Nov. 9.
He isn’t alone in his views.
Silicon Valley VCs talk openly about their bias toward young entrepreneurs. Some argue that Internet entrepreneurs peak at the age of 25.
Khosla and those who think like him are wrong.
This topic is of great interest to me - not so much the question of age of entrepreneurs, but the question of what it takes to build companies that have exemplary long-term success. So, I'll use Wadhwa's article as a pivot to explore a few related aspects and then cite specific examples from the history of companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and Sun Microsystems to make my case that long-term success takes a lot more than youth or ideas - it requires a level of experience and discipline that understands how to translate ideas into sustainable and lasting success.
1) Wadhwa's observations
Wadhwa cites various studies and data sets that make his case - i.e., older people are not only more likely to start new companies than younger people, they are more likely to be part of successful companies. One of the research papers he cites from his own team is this one: "Education and Tech Entrepreneurship". Here is the abstract of that study: