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X, Y, Zypries: The Myth of Young Founders

Digitalization, start-ups, and networks: Brigitte Zypries, the former German Minister of Economic Affairs and publisher of the DUB-UNTERNEHMER magazine, becomes F10’s newest contributing columnist. This time she reflects the potential of senior founders

Half of the founders in Germany are between 25 and 44 years old. In the general imagination, i.e. in people’s minds, the figure might even be 100%, as is often the case with stereotypes. They are true – almost. Interesting fact: the average age of founders in the USA, the home country of start-ups, is 42 to 45 years, even higher than in Germany.

And yet launching a company remains a young theme. An important prerequisite for such a step is courage, sometimes also naivety, the boundaries being fluid. The willingness to take risks decreases with increasing age. Something else, something decisive, comes into play: experience. These people have accumulated knowledge and expertise over decades. Why not take off again with a great idea? Let’s have a Bionade, invented by an older master brewer by the way, as the company was on the verge of insolvency. The rest is history.

Just about 10 percent of new entrepreneurs in Germany are over 55, but they do exist. What stands out is that they found out of inner necessity; the business model develops from personal experience. They don’t scan the market for opportunities that promise profits – which of course isn’t objectionable in principle – but they usually have intrinsic motives.

They found out of inner necessity; the business model develops from personal experience. The senior founders usually have intrinsic motives.

Just like Anna Vonnemann, 67, a Berlin painter who invented ReMoD (Remember Motion Device) and won the “Zugabe-Preis” (“Encore Award”) of the Körber Foundation in 2019. The small device, worn on a belt and barely bigger than the first generation of mobile phones, enables her daughter to lead a life without a wheelchair. After a stroke in the womb, Dindia Gutmann was born paralyzed on one side: spastic hemiparesis. The biofeedback device helps her regarding balance and coordination problems.

Or Ute Büchmann, who as well won the “Zugabe-Preis” (“Encore Award”) of the Körber Foundation in 2019. The 65-year-old has trained 1400 senior assistants and set up a placement portal to counteract loneliness in old age. Here, too, the initial spark came from a private situation: after her mother’s death, her father felt increasingly lonely. She was looking for a partner to talk to – but found none who would have met his demands. So she thought to herself that one should bring the qualified women who have time together with such seniors. A win-win situation.

The 60-plus founders may not always (but sometimes) be interested in high-tech or cool apps. It’s not about creating needs or desires that can be triggered and fulfilled on a regular basis – which the „Club of Rome“ would, in principle, object to. It is a matter of taking a closer look at one’s living environment, about recognizing needs and reacting to them. And sometimes they are able to be seen more clearly in old age. When the rush hour of life is over, there is another encore.

Applause!

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