/ StartupSchoolMadeMeFeelOld

Why Young Founders Succeed

I've been gathering my thoughts since Startup School Europe a few weeks ago. The event was wonderful. It got me thinking about some things that have been bothering me for a while now, mainly: Why do young people make for good founders?

For a long time I wasn't sure if the evidence was just anecdotal; the result of some kind of selection bias, etc. I tried to explaing it with obvious excuses, like family life that slows you down at 30+. But it didn't seem to fit the picture. In traditional businesses, older, more experienced folk do still have an upper hand as founders as well as at management tasks.

During Startup School I suddenly had a new thought: it's not just that people slowly get worse as they age. It's not that experience doesn't seem to be a competitive advantage. Unexperienced people might actually be innately better as startup founders!

The expert runs a cycle behind when no solutions exist

Experience Intuition
1. Search for a pre-existing solutions Come up with a new solution
2. Come up with new solution Execute solution
3. Execute solution

Experience has Asymptotic Complexity##

For a moment, imagine experience as an list of solutions, and using experience as an operation that reduces the list to only those solutions that match the problem at hand, and further evaluates the best solution from the applicable ones.

Gaining more experience means adding more elements to the experience-list, thus lengthening the time it takes to evaluate all of them. An expert has a great advantage in an environment with multitude of problems with pre-existing optimized solutions. But iterating the list of experience becomes a hinderance and a disadvantage when no solutions exist.

Untrusted Intuitions##

Ad hoc solutions have an inherent unreliability about them. Solutions based on experience, on the other hand, have an aura of reliability and trust. The former will be tested and the latter rarely faces scrutiny from others.

Building a system, be it in code or as an operating model, where intuitions can easily be implemented and their validity tested gives a huge advantage over the warm fuzzy feeling of expertize.

Naivete Makes for a Good MVP##

An expert thinks he knows what the client wants, and might even be able to design and implement a very elaborate system to fill that imaginary need. A novice has an inkling of an idea, but what he has, can be implemented fast and cheap.

Both systems will have to face the customer at some point. Novice's simpler system face customer scrutiny and validation a lot sooner and can be course corrected possibly many times over before the expert product sees any real world critique.

Survival of the Fittest Solution##

When faced with a problem, a person with experience optimizes by selecting the best available solution. A person with no experience comes up with a new solution.

Most times the new solution will be inferior. But given enought tries, a new better solution will emerge, especially during changing market conditions. And that better solution can extinguish all the old ways of doing things.

Staying Young Forever

  1. Don't fall victim to your expertise. Learn to recognize when it is useless.
  2. Prefer action over planning.
  3. Keep it simple, stupid. Real world requirements are different than you think, so let them come from your customers, not from your imagination.
  4. Make faster decisions. Make more decisions. Course correct as needed.