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The Next Internet Wunderkind...Granny

05/08/2013 15:01 BST | Updated 05/10/2013 10:12 BST
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Quick, what first comes to mind when I say 'the Internet's next great hope' (I mean...billionaire)? A male, age 25, engineer, wears tee-shirts, jeans and smelly kicks? No life, no sunlight and such. What if I were to throw into the mix...retiree, bouncing grandkids on the knee and three months a year on the Costa Brava? Would you believe these two were rubbing shoulders?

 

The Internet is simply a means to an end and we often forget this simple fact when we bow to the Zucks of the world. Understandably the frontier that is the Internet has been heavily reliant on a skill set originally borne of maths, sciences and geeky chutzpah (historically weighted to men versus women...a critical issue and worth another post). 

 

But when you consider the 'mom and pop shops' of the world that we have come to rely on - from local restaurants to off-licences and country B&B's - wasn't it inevitable that at some point, the Internet's flexibility, entrepreneurial spirit and loose global borders would mean a digital manifestation of these small businesses?

 

Of course, the pensioner as entrepreneur is nothing new. Harland David Sanders (aka, Colonel Sanders) started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 65 years old (today a $15 billion company) and Ray Kroc was 52 years old when he started McDonalds (which, at revenues of $38 billion - including franchise stores - actually makes it the 68th biggest economy - larger than Ecuador).

 

My mother, retired with four grandkids, bonds over crazy deadlines, Facebook followers and speaks highly of her developers. She decided at 60+ to start a company called IndieBRAG which provides a 'seal of approval' for the self-publishing industry. My father is a fiction writer and has self published so it made sense. Why not? They go to the gym, travel, socialise; there are no plans to sit around. In fact, often unencumbered with the everyday struggles of a younger generation (kids, school run, mortgage, uncertainty) an older generation has time to let the creative juices flow.

 

According to the New York Times, my parents aren't alone in embracing all the flexibility that the Internet affords: The AARP currently offers a new programme which "helps people 50 and older learn about business plans, advertising and marketing, and social media."

 

In the UK, according to the Financial Times, two-thirds of business owners are 50-plus and a fifth are between 61 and 70. When you consider that having some sort of digital presence is necessary no matter what your business, you can see where the pensioners are starting to compete.

 

When you also consider the fact that technology resources are becoming cheaper and more readily available, it's inevitable that Boomers will want to get into the game that their kids and grandkids are 'playing' and with an edge, says Ting Zhang, economist at the Jacob France Institute in the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore: "Older people with experience have an entrepreneurial edge in a knowledge-based economy" (source: Businessweek)

 

Surprised? The entertainment industry has no lack of spirited and successful over 55's - from Jack Nicholson's swagger to Helen Mirren's sass and Hugh Hefner showing no signs of slowing down (although I think we'd all agree he should probably take a break) There is no reason why the Silicon Valley, Alley, Roundabouts and such shouldn't see a few grey hairs. 

 

If I were you, I'd place your bets on our elder statesmen, I myself plan to put my chips on the Boomer generation. When my kids' grandmother cashes out I will without reservation be the first to party on her yacht.