01.02.2016 in Entrepreneurship, Latest by copaceticweb 0

Age is truly just a number for entrepreneurs

Who is an entrepreneur? Is an entrepreneur a person in their 20s with the world as their oyster? Is an entrepreneur a person who invents technological devices that aren’t in the market? Well the answer to those questions is no. In fact, an entrepreneur is an individual who commences a business venture, this could be any business venture from technological devices to carpentry, if they can dream a product that will create an impact in the market they pursue it. When they pursue this idea they assume the risks that are tied up to it, which may be financial, environmental or other risks all in the hopes of earning a profit. Establishing a business and accepting risks are the key components of a successful entrepreneur.

However, with the rise of entrepreneurial ventures like Facebook, Apple and Google, we have a new set of characteristics to identify entrepreneurs. Of these characteristics, the biggest misconception that revolves around entrepreneurship is that only youthful individuals are those who have the capability and capacity to be entrepreneurs. This misconception has deluded us from seeing the reality that in the past 10 years, it is  those between the ages of 55 to 64 years who have had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity! In fact, one in three businesses in America was started by those above the age of 50 years.

Even with such statistics backing the success of older entrepreneurs, they are often initially overlooked as successful venture due to the false impression that their rate of success is low. However, there have been many entrepreneurs above the age of 30 who have been able to create an impact in their relevant field. And beyond that, they have been able to sustain their businesses due to their personal experiences.

The following are accounts of a few entrepreneurs who were able to overcome these barriers to become influential roles in their industries.

Jan Koum (33) WhatsApp

Koum, began his career as a cleaner at a grocery store, he took his fist steps in the IT industry at Ernst & Young as a Security Tester. However, he was able to expand his technical knowledge when he began his career at Yahoo! in 1997 as an Infrastructure Engineer, where he met Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp. After leaving Yahoo! in 2007, he had applied to Facebook, however he was rejected. Thereafter for the following years he relied on his $400,000 savings from Yahoo! for his sustenance.

In 2009, he purchased an iPhone and realized that the 7-month-old App Store of Apple will in fact pave the way for new disruptive apps, and he decided that he wants to make one of such apps, and be a part of this. And on 24th February 2009, on Koum’s birthday he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. (the name which was coined due to its similarity with the phrase “What’s Up”). After multiple attempts at developing and launching an application which would not crash, and that can go beyond the beta stage, in November 2009 WhatsApp was introduced to the App Store for the iPhone. Since then WhatsApp has expanded and grown to become the most globally popular messaging application with a 900 Million subscriber base. Furthermore, despite his age, he was the highest-ranked newcomer in 2014 on the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans in 2014 where he came in at the 62nd position.

Jack Ma (35) Alibaba

Ma was an English professor at a local university after being the only one to be rejected by KFC as a Manager out of its 24 candidates, and the only one to be rejected out of the 5 applicants who applied for the Police force. He was introduced to the internet in only 1995 while he was in USA for a business venture. Here he found that there was a lack of information and pages relating to China and Chinese businesses. This lead to the founding of his first startup venture, ‘Chinapages’, which lists Chinese businesses and their products in order to provide them with the opportunity to connect with global buyers. However, this venture drew to a close, due to a failed partnership with the Chinese government. Thereafter, in the late 1990’s he started working at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, where he met Jerry Yang, co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo!. The relationship that he built with Yang becomes beneficial in the future as it leads to a funding of USD 1 Bn in Alibaba by Yahoo! in 2005.

After leaving his government job, he began Alibaba in 1999 with 18 people including him his wife, and friends and his students. He had to face many adversities while carrying out the operations of Alibaba, for example he was rejected shunned away by the big wigs at Silicon Valley while he was trying to raise venture capital funding for Alibaba, due to the ‘unprofitable’ business model he had presented. This 18 people start-up has grown to become one of the world’s largest companies by Market Capitalization which is approximately USD 200 Billion.

Sam Walton (44)

Sam Walton began his retail career as a Sales Trainee at JC Penny in 1940. He’s guiding belief that “There is only one boss-the customer” guided his actions during his employment, as he did not like to keep his customers waiting till he finished the paperwork. Often he would forgo the tidiness of his book work to end the transactions quick as possible so that the customers are able to leave as soon as they make the payment. In 1942, he was drafted into the United States Army as a Communications Officer in the Army Intelligence Corps based in the stateside.

After the end of World War II, he returned back to Arkansas in 1945, where he opened a Ben Franklin Variety Store, a franchise of Butler Brothers by investing a capital of $25,000. He was able to expand his business operations by owning leading Ben Franklin Store in a six-state region. However, his efforts were completely set off course when his landlord refused to renew the lease on the store as he wanted to pass on Walton’s business to his son.

This setback did not stop him, in fact this lead him to lease a store in Bentonville under a 99-year lease, to avoid history repeating itself, and named it Walton’s Five & Dime. He was able to gain back the previous success that he enjoyed and he was also able to increase the number of stores he owned to 15.

With the hopes of further expanding, he thought of a strategy where goods are dramatically discounted as measure to undermine their competitors. He approached Butler Brothers with this idea of earning profits through volumes and not margins, and was shutdown as the move seemed too radical.

He believed in this strategy, and he pursued this with confidence by mortgaging his house and by borrowing as much as he can to establish ‘Wal-Mart’. This humble dream grew to be the USA’s largest retail store which offered the lowest prices. His success was further established when he was named as the richest person in USA from 1982 to 1988. And at the time of his death, in 1992, his net worth was USD 25 billion.

Expolanka Holdings has always recognized and encouraged entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams and the ‘dare-to-do’ spirit. And our business activities have always advocated inclusion despite all creeds. We value innovation and entrepreneurship, and recognize individuals with the opportunity to grow.

We have taken efforts to inspire entrepreneurship among individuals disregarding age and this was one of our inspirations behind the microfinancing services that we provided for Senior Citizens. This microfinancing project established Senior Citizen Committees (SCC) in different regions of Sri Lanka. These committees were provided with the necessary training in self-employment activities, accounting, advocacy, lobbying and other relevant areas for them to hone their latent skills to create a successful startup ventures.

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