4 founders over 30 share why starting later can be good for business

if you’re over 30, should you consider starting your own business or startup or is it just too risky?

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Every other day, we see news articles about startups getting funded and businesses making waves. In fact, the 2016 BNP Global Paribas Report found that millennials were starting more businesses versus their previous generations.

As a millennial entrepreneur myself, I’ve been lucky to be able to get some attention for our presentation design services company HighSpark, but some of the attention was due more to our youth than anything else.

Does this mean that if you’re over 30, you shouldn’t consider starting your own business or startup because it’s just too risky?

In this article, I interview five inspiring entrepreneurs based in Asia that began taking their entrepreneurship journey seriously long after they turned 30. You’ll be surprised that you can actually teach an old dog new tricks and that in fact, starting later might not be such a bad idea.

Eugene Seah, 41 years old, Founder of Trainium Academy

Trainium Academy helps others discover their elements of success, including mindset, mastery and money skills through training and coaching programmes. Specific topics of specialisation include personal branding, future-readiness and financial planning.

What was your best / worst experience starting your business later in life? Do you feel that starting late has put you at a disadvantage?

“My worst experience is missing important events with my kids. I’ve found that running a business means I have to constantly balance the lack of time I have with my kids to make things work. My business is at the growth stage where I need to network aggressively, and cannot be too selective with the assignments I have. If I was single or married without kids, I wouldn’t have to worry about this.

I enjoy coaching middle-aged clients who share similar struggles as me the most. Reason being, I can fully understand their situation, as I’ve experienced what they’ve gone or are going through. As a life coach, empathy is a very important trait.

I sincerely believe that everything happens exactly at the time they should. With this mindset, I don’t think I had started later than I should. In fact, I had started at the exact time I should. My retrenchment experience had to happen so that I could wake up from my slumber, and now I have the motivation to wake others up too.”

Also read: Are older entrepreneurs more successful?

What’s one piece of advice you would give others interested in being an entrepreneur if they are above 30?

“If you haven’t been retrenched yet, then DON’T resign yet. Use your non-working time (evenings, weekends) to learn business skills and to network. But don’t take too long. Instead, do it with an urgency as if your job is not a permanent affair. Start saving and investing wisely to build your funds. The larger your pool of funds, the more time you have to build your business when the time comes. I am thankful that I had some money set aside to tide my family through difficult times when I first started.

When I was still working with a comfortable paycheck, I wasted my non-working hours on frivolous pursuits. I enjoyed leisure activities and didn’t put too much thought into building my future. I could have attended courses to learn new skills and receive useful certifications like NLP or MBTI. Instead, I spent my days watching videos on Facebook and Youtube.

If you’ve already resigned or have been recently retrenched, it’s not too late either. Ration your savings for 6 months, change your lifestyle to spend within your means, and build your business with extreme urgency. I am very happy to coach you to do that by connecting you to positive-minded and talented friends I have.”

Kevin Chang, 36 years old, Founder of Furwy Pte Ltd

Furwy provides a pet services marketplace as an alternative to dog kennels in Singapore to connect pet owners and pet sitters with more than 300 verified sitters till date. They offer services like dog boarding, dog walking, dog daycare and more.

What gave you the idea to start your business later in life?

“I once went on vacation and placed my two pet dogs at a dog hotel with full peace of mind that they’d be taken care of. To my surprise, I picked my dogs up and found them infested with ticks! This caused a huge problem, as ticks were troublesome and worrying to treat, and I had to exterminate my home as well as a result. On my next trip, I tried a competitor’s marketplace and discovered many flaws in their business concept, which led to a poor experience overall.

Since there was a lack of dedicated support in Singapore, I decided to create a project to solve the problem and demand for pet care services like dog daycare so owners can have true peace of mind.”

What’s one piece of advice you would give others interested in being an entrepreneur if they are above 30?

“Go do it, but take baby steps. At this age, it’s not surprising that many people feel they have a lot more to lose if they start from scratch, giving up a regular salary and supporting their family and kids. A lot of colleagues and friends I know have great ideas and incessantly talk about it, but few ever end up doing it. I personally have far more respect for the person with a single idea who gets there or at least tries to, versus the person with a thousand ideas who does nothing.

Give yourself a year, apply your skills, give it everything you’ve got, and if you fail, well you’ve still got your job and probably enough work experience and networks to get a job again easily!

A venture capitalist once told me that they had a rule of thumb not to invest in entrepreneurs over the age of 30, saying that under the age of 30, younger entrepreneurs typically have nothing to lose, so they will put everything on the line. I believe in the converse, that someone over the age of 30 with a solid career and a family to care for has everything to lose, so they have no choice but to put everything into their startup to make it succeed.

So, go and do it, because you might not get another chance later on.”

What was your best / worst experience starting your business later in life? Do you feel that starting late has put you at a disadvantage?

“My best experience is currently ongoing because I’m doing it right now. I love doing things beyond mundane office tasks and see its success or failure, and make improvements to it. The project is like my baby, and spending time on it gives me a sense of fulfillment.

My worst experience was wasting a lot of time doing things due to issues such as finding the wrong partners or vendors to kick start my project, which delayed the timeline.

Starting late did put me at a disadvantage. When you’re younger, your circle of friends is typically more enthusiastic about ventures, and it is easier to find others with the same mindset and ideas. When you start late, your friends have established their careers and families, and are generally more risk-averse.

However, there are advantages to starting late too. Spending 10 years working in the corporate sector had given me a lot of skill sets and knowledge I lacked when I was younger, which have now become useful when I manage my business. With stronger finances, I do not have to worry about funding at this point.

I also grew my network considerably with successful people from all walks of life, and know that I can count on them should I ever need help.

On hindsight, starting a business now was actually the right decision.”

Michael Tan, 48 years old, Founder of Zap Delivery Pte Ltd

Zap Delivery is an urban logistics platform that provides fast, secure and reliable delivery services to e-commerce businesses, corporate customers and consumers in Southeast Asia.

What gave you the idea to start your business later in life?

“I started my first business with a friend when I was 28, mostly because of dissatisfaction with my job and my boss at that point in time. It went really well and we had more than $1 million in sales in our first year, and almost doubled that in the second year. Unfortunately, we were hit by the Asian Financial crisis and got wiped out in our third year. I went back to work to repay my debts and got bored by the third year.

I found no purpose in my job and that spurred me to start another business soon after. My current business was started about 3 years ago because I was unhappy with the delivery services offered when I bought things online. You can say that my entrepreneurial ventures are the direct result of dissatisfaction with the status quo.”

If there was one thing you would / wouldn’t do again, what is it?

“There are times where founders are blinded by strong sentiments towards their ‘baby’ (the project), which affects the decisions they make. I hung onto one of my startups for far too long (30 months) even though we struggled to find a breakthrough in the market. People liked our product, but they just weren’t ready to pay for it. Sometimes, you can be too early or advanced for the market. If I were given a choice all over again, I would have cut losses earlier in my startups.

The emotional attachment we have to projects are detrimental to the financial health of the business.”

What’s one piece of advice you would give others interested in being an entrepreneur if they are above 30?

“It is never too late to take the leap of faith. If you have an inner call in you, just do it. You don’t want to look back and regret when you retire years from now. Of course, you will have to manage your finances and maintain a low personal financial burn rate. There are sacrifices to be made and changes to your lifestyle that you will need to adapt to.”

Sam Choo, 58 years old, Internet Entrepreneur

Sam is the founder of the Singapore Internet Marketers Facebook Group, a 3,000 member strong community of aspiring internet entrepreneurs. Sam had recently hit his 5-figure monthly income mark and shared with his community often on how to transition into self-employment.

Do you regret not starting your business earlier? Why or why not?

“I’ve always felt that I had the capacity for greatness but was limited by the scope of my previous job. Problem was, I lacked the experience and knowledge to run a business at the time. It would have been much easier to start an online business many years ago as there was less competition.

If I could go back in time and start earlier, I would get a mentor to guide me to accelerate my progress. I would have progressed much faster as compared to making mistakes on my own. Experience is an expensive and mostly unnecessary teacher. Personally, I would have focused on mastering copywriting as a skill as it’s one that could potentially help me grow my business by leaps and bounds.

Imagine this. You have an awesome product, and you spend money driving traffic to your website. If you cannot persuade readers to buy, everything you do is in vain. Persuasion is what stands between you and a sustainable, profitable business.”

What was your best / worst experience starting your business later in life? Do you feel that starting late has put you at a disadvantage?

“My entrepreneurial life started at 49. With a wealth of experience through the school of hard knocks, I had some useful traits such as patience, interpersonal skills and an indomitable spirit.

The first year was extremely hard as I did not have any savings, skillset or mentors, and I literally started from zero. I had very little funds and a family to feed, this really affected the choices I made early on as I was afraid to take too much risk.

So far, my best experience or business decision was building my online community through a Facebook group. It’s taken me years, but it was a simple and low-cost model to start building a following that would later bring me a consistent pool of leads, brand ambassadors, and customers. Every day I post useful resources into the group to add value to others who are just starting out. In return, the community has enabled me to live a carefree lifestyle where I am not bound to a desk and have no ceiling for my income.”

What’s one piece of advice you would give to others interested in being an entrepreneur if they are above 30?

“a) Set daily goals: When you set a goal, for example, to be a millionaire, you will always be unhappy because you will be constantly reminded that you aren’t there yet. But, when you strive to be better today than you were yesterday, you celebrate your wins daily. This daily ritual of positive action will take you to your goal eventually.

Also read: Advice for first-time startup CEOs

b) Work on constantly improving yourself. In the start, you are your greatest investment. Start buying and reading books, attend courses to learn new skills and build your social capital. When you start a business by yourself, you become a team of one. No secretary to file your paperwork, no executive to pick up your slack. You are one person wearing numerous hats and you have to be able to stomach the stress when it comes.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when this happens, one of the best ways to hedge against this is to consistently seek self-improvement. This way, you’ll always be on your toes and be able to add value to others with your learnings. It’s not difficult to get ahead, you just need to work a little bit harder than the average person.”


There you have it, five entrepreneurs over 30 that prove that even if you’re no longer a wide-eyed 20-something with little to lose, it might even be an added advantage to start a business later on.

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