It’s been suggested that children are too young to sit in classrooms and that they should come back when they’re old enough to know they need to learn something.

In the Innovation Ecosystem podcast, “Technonomics and why my profits might disappear”, McKinsey advisor John Straw says he won’t invest in anyone under 50 and only in B2B.

One of his reasons is that a 24-year-old may have “lots of energy and creative ideas but a lack of experience.” Under 50s, in his opinion, don’t have the experience to make a start-up work.

Incubators and accelerators

If you visit any of the new breed of business incubators and accelerators, you’ll notice a healthy percentage of older-preneurs in among the mix. Empty-nesters, perhaps, taking advantage of access to their pension pots to invest in themselves. James Altucher is among those writing about this phenomenon – ‘Choose yourself’. #jamesaltucher

So here we are: start-ups are both young and old, and investors recognise a segmentation depending on their particular view of risk, plus a market selling advice to age-related entrepreneurs. But who advises the start-up that’s not looking for VC investment and just wants to sell product quickly? To be precise: who be the advisor or mentor who hasn’t retired already?

Another Business Model Canvas?

Many mentors who generously offer services to accelerators have already retired from a successful business. Is this the skill set you need to succeed in markets that are changing as quickly as they are now? Is another Business Model Canvas session what you need to push past the huge number of start-ups you’re competing with?

In a topsy-turvey realignment of appropriate skills meeting consumer need, if investees are attractive at 50+, maybe mentors should be under 30. Personally, I think that strategy can be set by experience, but execution needs a new attitude that is based in omni-channel success. This means that ‘digital’ must feature in the mentor CV. By definition, this excludes many Gen X. In a flip of the old norms, teachers need to do and doers need to teach. 

Maybe the business advice market is looking down the barrel of its own gun. Disruption disrupting innovation. That’s got a ring about it.

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