Maybe you think you’re too old to start your business — especially your own successful business.
If so, you’re wrong: A study conducted by the Census Bureau and two MIT professors found:
- A 50-year-old startup founder is 2.2 times more likely to found a successful startup than a 30-year-old.
- A 50-year-old startup founder is 2.8 times more likely to found a successful startup than a 25-year-old founder.
- A 60-year-old startup founder is 3 times as likely to found a successful startup as a 30-year-old startup founder — and is 1.7 times as likely to found a startup that lands in the top 0.1 percent of all companies.
Case in point: Jerry and Marge Selbee. After running a local convenience store in Evart, Michigan (population 1,900) for 17 years, Jerry and Marge sold the business and retired.
Then one day Jerry, who majored in math, noticed a new lottery game called Winfall. Within three minutes he had found what he calls a “special feature” about the game. Unlike games where the jackpot keeps building until someone hits, say, all six numbers, Winfall had a “rolldown” feature: If the jackpot reached $5 million and no one matched all six numbers, all the money in the pot “rolled down” to people who matched five, four, and three numbers.
In short, if the pot was over $5 million and no one won the big prize… lots of people were guaranteed to win a smaller prize.
“If I played $1,100,” Jerry says, “mathematically I’d have one 4-number winner. That’s 1,000 bucks. Then I knew I’d have either 18 or 19 three-number winners, and that’s 50 bucks each. I got $1,000 for a four-number winner, and I got 18 three-number winners worth $50 each, so that’s 900 bucks.”
In short, invest $1,100 and get a $1,900 return.
On average — and as long as no one hit all six numbers.
Which is where the law of big numbers came in. Jerry knew he wouldn’t win all the time. But the more often he played, and the more money he “invested,” the more likely the results would even out and create a reasonably predictable return.
Jerry and Marge started a company, G.S. Investment Strategies, and allowed friends and family to buy shares in the company for $500 each. Over time — including many trips to Massachusetts to play that state’s similar game after Michigan’s game shut down — the company grossed more than $26 million over a nine-year period.
For their part, Jerry and Marge grossed nearly $8 million in profits.
All because Jerry was good at math.
And good at spotting an opportunity. It’s easy to have an idea and hesitate, thinking, “Yeah, but no one else has tried this. I must be missing something.”
But that isn’t always the case. As Jerry said, referring back on his and Marge’s success, “The only thing I found really remarkable is nobody else really seemed to grasp it.”
Every day, would-be entrepreneurs let hesitation and uncertainty stop them from acting on an idea — especially as they get older, when the risk of losing what you have can feel like it outweighs the potential reward.
Yet science proves that age — as well as experience, skill, and connections — is on your side.
The greater your experience, the easier it is to develop a smart strategy. The better your skills, the easier it is to execute well. The better your connections, the easier it is to get the help you need.
You won’t be guaranteed to win whatever “lottery” you pursue, but one thing is guaranteed: You will never get the chance to succeed if you don’t try.