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Are you too old or too young to start a MedTech Startup?

Updated: Feb 21

I don't think so and neither does Gary Vaynerchuck...

Gary Veynerchuk and being too old in MedTech Startups
Gary Veynerchuk and being too old in MedTech Startups

It is amazing to me how many people I have met on my 32 year journey that are just full of excuses of why they never did that great startup they knew they had. One of the key reasons they say that they have not "made the break - taken the risk and gone for it" with a MedTech Startup is because...

A) "I'm just too old"

B) "I'm just too young"

If both of these are true then we'd only end up with a few medtech startups that would probably be called Goldilocks Medical. And they would all be started by 40 to 42 year olds.

Let me tackle these myths on age one at a time, and tell you what I think is really hiding behind the excuses (especially when I start to scratch at the surface.)

I'm too old start a MedTech Startup

When I hear this - I often actually hear "I'm too comfortable". Over the years I've had so many conversations with great people that are inside large medtech companies. They have a great idea - because they have been exposed so deeply to the problems of their customers, or seen how badly the solution of their current company is; they've seen a deep unmet need. This has often sparked a chain reaction that has led to an "Aha moment" where a great idea has popped up. (Often not the final idea... but a great start.)

But then they look around them and this is what they see. Firstly a really nice salary that comes in with little to no personal risk. It's pretty sure and safe. They see an accumulation of years that mean they effectively have a set of golden handcuffs on them. The bonus, the company car, the years of payout if they get laid off.

But none of that is the comfortable rationale (in their own head) for why they don't take a risk and go do a startup. They say "I'm too old." And here I'm not talking about someone that absolutely loves their position in the company. Someone at the top - in the top position - loving their career and has no intrinsic motivation to step out. They will never voluntarily step out... (but they will get removed eventually).

I'm talking about a middle to upper level manager that hates their job. They cannot stand the incessant teams meeting with thirty people on the call - going over the same old crap they went over on last month's call. They hate the internal focus while the customers just don't get what they need. I'm talking to the people that are just not happy in their big company - where process and politics take centre stage over product and progress.

But when they lie awake at night - complaining about the "idiots that just don't get it!" - and the "I could do better." There's a thousand nagging reasons that life is horrible in their job - but sadly it's very comfortable at the same time. And too many times I see this as self justification that "I'm too old to go out and start a company." That often covers up this real reasoning of "I'm too comfortable."

I get it... you have bills to pay... you have school fees to cover etc etc.

So here's some things you can do to lower the risk and start yourself on your pathway.

  1. Side gig it - don't give up your day job - put in some double duty for evenings and weekends - where you can build plans - file patents - start to raise money - (get educated on how it works). So instead of watching 2 hours of Netflix or "the game" - put that time into working out your game plan. Keep the income from the day job - but start to build your side business. Register the site, the company name, file some IP (not in your name if it is a conflicting product - remember you are under a contract in terms of IP). Raise some money - get some others involved. De-risk the start of the startup. It's not ideal but better than a stagnant idea and being miserable.

  2. Hire someone to start the process - If you feel you just have zero time - utilise a bit of your monthly cash to get in someone smart (junior) to do the things that you want. Give them experience and let them do the lifting on your startup. Pay them a small amount to do all of the above - and get your side gig up an running with less time commitment on your side. Start getting into that CEO role. You'll be amazed how much can be achieved.

  3. Get educated - "I don't know how to actually do a start up" - If this is your barrier - just get across to my course "How to startup in medtech" - sign up - pay up - and for the next two months get educated on the total A-Z on how you will do your startup. You may say: "Ohhh now I know, that's not for me," when you are at the end of the course. But it will give you clear line of sight of what you need to do for the startup. Or if startups are for you... irrespective of age.

  4. Never too old - you are never never never too old. Just look at some of these folks below that started business late in life and had major success:

Ray Kroc: He was 52 when he opened his first McDonald’s franchise. He had worked for 34 years as a salesman selling paper cups and milkshake machines.

Ernestine Shepherd: She started working out at the age of 56 and later became a successful personal trainer and also holds exercise classes for seniors.

Leo Goodwin: At 50, he founded GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company). He worked with his wife to build his company from the bottom up.

Angie Higa: After retiring from her banking career to take care of her granddaughter in 2008, Angie began her business manufacturing and selling travel accessories like blankets and pillows.

Harland David Sanders: Known as Colonel Sanders, he franchised his “Kentucky Fried Chicken” in 1952, when he was 62.

Investors like experience - older often means experience, and investors invest in teams with experience. Turn that negative in your brain into a positive. Sell your "age" as years of wisdom and experience.

Know how to present - If you have been a round a while in any big company. You will absolutely know how to build powerpoints and present them. Hell - it's probably half of your working week. So use that knowledge and capability (and all those skills) to apply to your startup to be able to convince people to come on the journey with you.

Know how to do a solid business plan - I am sure that if nothing else, once a year if not once a quarter you have to prepare business plans. Well guess what your startup needs that skill as much as anything else. Solid - sensible - realistic business planning. And at your age you are likely to have that in spades. Your age has brought you in depth knowledge of the market and what it will cost to access that market. So use that knowledge - because investors and partners will feel way more warm and fuzzy if there is a solid - and real business plan behind the startup.

So old = experience >> use that as your edge, your power, your winning insight.

I'm too young to start a MedTech Startup

Now let me skip to the other side of the spectrum and move to you if you are sitting there saying "That's all good for those old farts that have been around and have experience. But I'm too young to build a startup."

In your head you probably have the opposite fears that are surfaced as "Too Young." Which is masking the reality of what is probably in your head. You will often doubt your idea - because you don't have the experience to know if it's real. You will absolutely be feeling like you have imposter syndrome - thinking "How could anyone think I could do this... I have no experience or pedigree."

You might also have a deep fear of ridicule - by having to go to way more experience people and older people and say "Hey... I have this idea" and you may fear that the older and wiser may say "That is borderline stupid my child." But hey - trust me - just because they are older does not mean they actually have the insights to see the future. Plus often the older people are stuck in their ways and a hard core med device person that ran a catheter company for ten years may know that paradigm and that paradigm only. When you come up with a virtual monitoring catheter that has no physical catheter... it is most likely that the idea is right - but they can't shift paradigm - so poo poo the idea. It is them being blind not you being ridiculous.

You may think "Who the hell will give me money? Why would they trust me?" And that is legit as investors like experience - but I'll give you a work around below. Remember the core is the idea - and if it is an amazingly good idea - we can work all the rest out. So pack the "I'm too young" bag away, and strap in and try some of these helpful hints.

  1. Get help - one of the hardest things for a young person is often to know how to ask for help, and who to ask for help. Linked in is full of people with knowledge that have their entire knowledge CV laid out in their bio. In my experience it is very rare that if you ask for help - people just say "no". They may not help you exactly the way you want or need, but the flat out "No" is rare. And hey - if you don't ask you don't get. (My mum always said the bigger problem is - if you don't want, you don't ask.)

  2. Get support - there are hundreds of support methods across the industry from incubators, to accelerators to industry experts that are there to support young fresh ideas. My course (expensive as it may look) is one area that you can get a ton of support. It has sheets, names, contacts, partners that are all loaded with the knowledge you need. Get across - sign up and get educated. If you come out of the back end of my course - I guarantee you will know more about starting and running a Medtech startup than 90% of this entire industry. It's not that hard.

  3. Get a team around you - You may not have the age and experience - but there are tons of people that do. And you (if you are convinced enough and your idea is good) will be able to surround yourself with solid experience. You may even seed your idea (if this is your first start up) to a very experienced CEO. Bring in a pro. I mean you don't have to be the CEO of company number one. So having a seasoned head will help you a lot. If they love your idea... love you. Then this is the fastest way to put to bed the entire experience gap. And guess what - you get to watch this build with your help - them at the wheel - and you will get an amazing education early in your career. WOW !! So go get some help.

  4. Get solid board members - Getting great - seasoned investors and executive directors on your board is a sure fire way to get great advice - and tap into the investor world with experience. Having good board members to guide you - help you - raise money with you can make all the difference. You need to be wary you have the right balance between investor and industry experience on the board - but having a solid board will help you. You can ask people to help you and be on the board - or even be a seasoned advisor. It all helps. You may be "too inexperienced" but you are smart - so get the experience around you and combine your smarts, drive, idea with their deep knowledge and experience.

  5. If you think you're too young to be successful... think again:

Kamaria Warren: At age seven, Kamaria Warren and her mom created a line of products for Brown and Black girls–stationery, vegan bags, and accessories–after finding no party products that represented girls of color.

Ryan Hickman: At age three, Ryan Hickman started collecting his family’s and his neighbor’s recyclables, which later became his business.

Mikey Wren: Mikey Wren teaches financial literacy to kids in his community and has written two books on the subject.

Vinusha MK: Vinusha MK found her love of baking at a young age and now is the force behind Four Seasons Pastry, whose aim is to set up a cooking school for the underprivileged.

Hart Main: At age 13, Hart Main came up with the idea of manly scented candles after teasing his sister about the girly scented ones she was selling for a school fundraiser. His candles are sold in every state, with sales exceeding six figures annually.

So what's your excuse now? Too old or too comfortable? Too young or too inexperienced?

If you have a great idea - have the will - have the smarts - then you can absolutely find ways to do your start up. Get help and be successful. Jump across to - where I've dropped a ton of useful resources - contacts - blogs - courses that are aimed at YOU.

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This is 100% true. Vaynerchuk often highlights the importance of resilience and patience in building a business. He suggests that these qualities can come from experience and maturity, hinting that older entrepreneurs might have an edge here. However, he also admires the energy and willingness of younger founders to take risks and learn from failures. Moreover, he challenges the stereotype that startups are solely the domain of the young. This broadens the entrepreneurship narrative to include more diverse stories and pathways to success.

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