This article was originally published on smh.com.au
When Marty Moore left his role as CEO of multi-billion-dollar company CS Energy in 2018, he didn’t retire or find a string of boards to sit on.
He launched a start-up.
57-year-old Moore and his daughter Emma started Your CEO Mentor to teach leadership skills.
“Every day I wake up and I’m invigorated, energised and happy,” he says.
Most people associate start-ups with young hip tech types, but Moore is part of a growing band of over 55s who are launching start-ups.
One third of Australian start-ups founded by over-55s
A report, Secrets and Lies: Ageless and Booming, by WPP AUNZ agency,Lightspeed, says one third of Australian start-ups are now founded by over-55s.
The accumulated experience and wealth of senior entrepreneurs (‘seniorpreneurs’) is giving them an edge in the marketplace; but they’re also finding freedom, energy and meaning in the entrepreneurial world.
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Breaking the paradigm
Professor Alex Maritz, Professor of Entrepreneurship at La Trobe Business School, says older Australians are now the fastest growing cohort of entrepreneurs. He notes that one in ten over-55s in the workforce are involved in start-ups.
“That breaks the paradigm of entrepreneurialism being young tech start-ups,” he says.
Maritz says there are a number of factors driving seniorpreneur start-ups. Many are wanting to supplement or generate income. “But it’s not always economic and not always about money,” he says. “It’s also about social connectedness. They want to give back to the community in some way.”
Moore says his start-up has provided him with a vehicle to pursue his true purpose – to improve the quality of leadership globally – and to make a bigger impact on the world.
Free to launch
Over-55s are also finding it a great time in their lives to launch start-ups because they have fewer responsibilities, with children often having flown the coop.
After a long career delivering innovation projects in large corporate businesses and government, Maree Beare launched healthtech start-up Wanngi, an app that allows people to track their symptoms and manage their personal health records.
Beare says over-55 has been an ideal time to launch her start-up because her children have
left school, giving her more time and flexibility.
The experience edge
Maritz says older start-up entrepreneurs have an edge because they have often accumulated more
wealth to fund their business.
But perhaps the biggest advantage they have over their younger counterparts is experience. Maritz says senior entrepreneurs have been through the “university of life”. “They have a lot more skills and a lot more networks,” he says.
Riding ups and downs
Caroline Falkiner became burnt out after working many years in corporate jobs. She took time out with no plans.
After being frustrated trying to find her two children’s sports venues on weekends, she launched start-up naveze.com, which lets users plan and get easy-to-follow directions to indoor and outdoor complexes and venues, including Sydney Olympic Park.
Falkiner says there many benefits of launching a start-up after a long career. Her three decades in corporate IT sales has given her intimate knowledge of how corporates work, which makes her more effective at selling into big companies.
A changing world
But seniorpreneurs do face challenges. Moore says older entrepreneurs also need to understand the
world of business has changed. “You’ve got to understand how it’s different,” he says. “Don’t be so arrogant as to think your experience in traditional business will help for launching a start-up.”
A start-up can be a tough grind and the pay-off may delayed. “Launching a start-up is really hard work without initial rewards,” Beare says. “But with a supportive family I have the freedom to ‘give it a go’.”
Understanding the risks
Keiran McIlwain, Head of MLC Technical Services Advice and Professionalism says pre-retirees and retirees themselves also need to consider the risks of start-ups, particularly if they are considering using super savings.
He says that it may be many years before they start to earn an income, if their start-up even gets off the ground. “Unlike being an employee of a company, income from a start-up may be inconsistent or erratic, and costs and ongoing expenses may be unpredictable too.”
McIlwain says to help meet ongoing expenses, retirees may have to draw more from their super than what they’d planned, which may impact how long their super lasts.
But despite these challenges, entrepreneurialism later in life delivers, not just the ability to generate income, but to contribute to the broader community.
“If you have an idea and you believe it’s solving a particular problem, then give it a go,” Beare says.