Six weeks ago, Campus, Google's East London startup space, invited nine entrepreneurs to join us for a program called Founders over 50. Tomorrow over lunch, they're pitching their companies, from edtech to content licensing, to press and the startup community.
We came up with Founders over 50, because we kept meeting first-time entrepreneurs in that age bracket at events or in our buzzy basement cafe. Without generalising, the founders we met had years of business experience and contacts that a younger entrepreneur might not have. They had the ability to truly calculate risk and the income to bootstrap their company. Data from The Kauffman Foundation shows that 26% of new founders were 55+ in 2014 (increased from 15% in 1996). We thought the time was right to develop a dedicated program.
Like our baby friendly start up school Campus for Mums, we wanted our free six-week program to be both practical and inspirational. On Wednesdays, when we held our sessions, we ran masterclasses to provide skills the group identified they lacked, organised peer-to-peer mentoring so our very diverse group could skill share, and added in social time for the group to develop their support network.
The nine founders we selected work across many verticals. Like Louise Chunn, the ex-magazine editor who started Welldoing, a platform to connect mind and body therapists with those that need them or IT management and PR experts Bill Chute and Jackie Kestenbaum, a husband and wife team and their intuitive business software startup Acadiant.
Some of the group used their time to pivot; Graham Lyons has sold half a million arrangements, invented an instrument and played on the original Pink Panther theme tune. Useful Music was created as an online resource for sheet music but rapidly progressing into a connecting platform for composers and classical music lovers.
Six weeks goes fast, but we know the group feel more embedded in the Campus community, with fellow entrepreneurs they can call on for support and help, and a renewed vigour for growing their startups. In the last year, we've increased our female community by 9% - there's room to grow, but we're now at 30% - through our efforts like our female founders network and baby friendly start up school, and I hope there's a knock on effect here for founders over 50, too.
At Google, we strongly believe that online products will only get better and more useful if we invite all segments of society to influence and create technology. Encouraging more first-time founders who are over 50 to start businesses could lead to better products that serve more diverse needs and solve new problems.
Since launch in 2012, we've built up a community of 45,000 entrepreneurs, developers and doers. Communities are living, breathing things and it's been fascinating to watch ours evolve. Here's to our trailblazing first group, and here's hoping we run many more rounds of Founders over 50.