Nowadays, it seems like the sermon everyone is preaching is “entrepreneurs shall inherit the earth’’. Indeed, there is a lot of emphasis on entrepreneurship, and it is easy to understand why. For one, it offers a lot of benefits- both to the entrepreneurs themselves and the society at large. Moreover, capitalism drives the world. And there is no better expression of capitalism than entrepreneurship.
In the last few years, an immeasurable amount of energy has been dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship, supporting entrepreneurship, and carrying out the art of entrepreneurship. Today, there are well over 30 million Small & Medium Scale Enterprises in Nigeria, a testament to the thriving entrepreneurial culture now pervading the country.
The emphasis on starting young
However, amidst all the dialogue regarding the necessity and benefits of entrepreneurship, there seems to be an undertone of “starting young”. Young Nigerians are enticed with the stories of famous global business leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Aliko Dangote, etc. All these men are are famous, not only for their successful businesses, but also for having started their businesses while young (mostly in their twenties).
To some people, therefore, the image that comes to mind whenever the word “startup” is uttered, is the picture of some young person in their twenties, who started with only a big dream, a laptop, and the ceremonial T-shirt with branded company logo. The young entrepreneur is supposed to work relentlessly hard, literally “coding” their dreams into reality.
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Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear phrases like “school na scam’’ or “a 9-5 job won’t make you rich”, and more of such chants that echo the energetic resolve/convictions of millennial who are seeking to succeed as an entrepreneurs.
Must one be young to succeed as an entrepreneur?
So does this imply that one must be young in order to successfully establish business? Does one’s entrepreneurial capabilities decline as they age? Well, of course not. There are scores of successful business leaders (both within and outside Nigeria) who didn’t venture into entrepreneurship until their thirties or forties. Let’s call them the thirties and forties starters.
Also worthy of mention is the fact that there are many successful entrepreneurs today who, even though they started out early, did not make significant headway until their thirties or even late. Again, let’s call these ones the late winners.
Some others even stumbled from one failed business to the other until eventually breaking through in their later years. What shall we call these ones; the “comeback kids”?. Perfect!
Basically, this article seeks to provide context by beaming the spotlight on some of these ‘late starters’, ‘late winners’ and ‘comeback kids’. Let’s focus on some successful individuals who founded successful businesses in their thirties or even forties. This should inspire you, just in case you are feeling too old to start.
- Reid Hoffman: He was born in 1967 and most popular for having co-founded LinkedIn, the social network platform for business-people and professionals. He worked at Ignlenook, and then at Apple Inc before starting his own business — SocialNet.com at age 30. So, he was a “late starter”. He later founded LinkedIn in 2002. He is a member of the “PayPal Mafia”.
- Peter Thiel: Born in 1967 and regarded as the leader of the “PayPal Mafia”, Peter Thiel is a highly popular face in the world of entrepreneurship and venture capitalism. And this is due mainly to his involvements in PayPal, Facebook, Planatir, Founders Fund, and more recently with Y-Combinator. He co-founded PayPal at the age of 31.
- Amancio Ortega: Born in 1936, he is most popular for establishing the globally popular fashion brand- Zara. Although he had been involved in entrepreneurship prior to founding Zara, he did not open his first Zara shop until he was 39 years old. So he sort of qualifies as a “late winner” within the context of this article.
- Cher Wang: She was born in 1958. She co-founded HTC Corporation, the manufacturing company responsible for HTC smartphones and other consumer electronics. She thus qualifies as a “late winner” for the sake of this article. However, it is worth noting that she had co-founded VIA Technologies (the Taiwanese manufacturer of essential computer hardware, such as circuits, motherboard chipsets, etc) in her late twenties.
- Liu Chuanzhi: He is the second Chinese national featuring on our run down of entrepreneurs who didn’t start their businesses in their twenties. He was born in 1944, and in 1984 he founded the company that is today known as Lenovo– a leading technology manufacturing company highly reputed for its laptops and tablets. Worthy of mention is that Liu Chanzhui reportedly was motivated to venture into entrepreneurship by lack of fulfilment at his prior job and the need to better his lot financially.
- Jack Ma: This man needs no elaborate introduction. He is the founder and chairman of the Alibaba Group, and is currently ranked as China’s richest man. Born in 1964, Jack Ma went on to found the Alibaba Group in 1999 (at age 35). The Alibaba Group has interests across e-commerce, online money transfers, etc.
- The GTBank Mafia: Many years ago, a group of individuals envisioned the establishment of an innovative and revolutionary Nigerian bank that will transform the Nigerian banking system. Today, that bank is known as Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. The members of the GTBank mafia were all reported to be in their thirties at the time of their convocation, with the exception of one member who was reportedly forty years of age. The most prominent members of the group are Fola Adeola and Tayo Aderinokun, who took the reins of the company upon its establishment, and served as successive Managing Directors of the Bank.
- The Access Bank Duo: As a quick follow up to the GTB mafia mentioned above, another team of individuals who took the Nigerian financial services space by storm while in their thirties is the Access Bank dynamic duo of Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe. They were both born in 1966 and embarked on the Access Bank journey the year they turned 36 years.
- Jason Njoku: Born in 1980. Jason is most famous for founding iROKOtv– an online streaming service dedicated to providing on-demand access to African movies. It is reputed for being the largest digital distributor of African movies. Jason Njoku does well to embody the “comeback kid” description, as iROKOtv is reportedly Njoku’s eleventh attempt at founding a successful business. Njoku founded iROKOtv in 2011 (the year he turned 31). It is worthy of note, however, that in 2010 he founded NollywoodLove, a channel on YouTube that turned profitable in its first year, and made room for the eventual establishment of iROKOtv.
- Femi Otedola: Born in 1962. Femi Otedola is a highly successful and highly influential name in the Nigerian context. He has been a major player in the Nigerian downstream oil sector, through his ownership and participation in Forte Oil- a leading Nigerian downstream oil & gas entity. Otedola began his venture into the oil & gas sector through his establishment of Zenon Petroleum & Gas in 2003- at the age of 41 years. He later went on to acquire African Petoleum, and merged it with Zenon. It is worth noting that Otedola founded an investments and trading firm in 1994 (at age 32) – Centreforfce Ltd.
- Mike Adenuga: Adenuga is another businessman who requires little introduction, as he is reputed for being the second richest Nigerian. He is famous for his various business entities- Globacom and Conoil Plc. He was born in 1953. He ventured into the oil & gas sector in 1990 (at 37 years of age), when he received a drilling license for the exploration of oil. He later ventured into the telecommunications sector in 1999 when he was issued a conditional GSM license.