It’s not just the millennials forging ahead in this rapidly emerging sector. As baby boomers and Gen X prove, there isn’t an ideal age for entrepreneurship.
What comes to mind when you think fintech? Probably a bunch of young IT guns with a mission to take on the world. But statistics are challenging the stereotypes around entrepreneurs in financial technology.
A new report by advisory firm Deloitte finds savvy “silver foxes” are playing a key role in the emerging sector. Fintech may be “synonymous with 20-somethings skateboarding to work in their loft-style offices” according to the report, Regtech is the new fintech, but researchers say older entrepreneurs are the real disruptors driving fintech.
With decades more experience than their younger counterparts, seasoned entrepreneurs in their 50s, 60s and even 70s are not to be underestimated. The report reveals these older entrepreneurs are joining forces with Gen Y and Gen X developers to bring innovative, scalable and agile financial solutions to the market.
Here we take a look at the ages of innovation.
Gen Y, millenials, hipsters – call them what you like, but they sure have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit. Born between about 1983 and 2000, they like to forge their own paths, and they tend to shun the more traditional jobs their parents would have readily accepted. They are digital natives, fluent in the language of social media. Their poster child is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and they dream big.
Kalif Auditore, 25, Nick Boniciolli, 24, and Joshua White, 24, are part of that Gen Y cohort that is confidently aiming high. These three aspire to change the face of crowdfunding with their platform Joey Crowd: they aim to raise $6 million by the end of the month and a further $4 million by September.
It’s common for these young businesspeople to field questions and cop a few raised eyebrows about their age. While it can be hard being the youngest person in the room, Joey Crowd’s founders say it’s a distinct advantage.
“We are really hungry,” says Auditore. “The older generation is lucky because they had a contract with hours from 8am to 5pm. My generation is completely different because the competition starts when you’re 13, 14 years old. So our generation is extremely competitive and you really have to know what you’re talking about.”
When you’ve got 20 years of experience under your belt, you take the knocks and keep getting up because you ultimately do believe.
Born between about 1965 and 1982, Gen Xs are sometimes known as the grunge generation. They may not be as au fait with social media and technology as Gen Y, but Gen Xs have a healthy work ethic and desire to go their own way. They make up 44 per cent of the workforce in Australia, according to McCrindle Research, with a further 9.3 per cent starting their own business or making plans to.
Lincoln Easton, 49, decided to go his own way two years ago when he quit his job as an accountant and started Progressclaim.com – a cloud-based payment platform for the construction industry. With a swag of experience, including at multinational PwC, Easton is typical of Gen X entrepreneurs who have done the hard yards before shifting into entrepreneurial mode.
“We were born in an era where we’ve got that disciplined approach where you had to do your time in a big job,” he says. “We started off doing the photocopying and eventually moved our way up. So there’s certainly a lot that we bring to the table, including patience and persistence.”
Easton says Gen X has more experience and therefore more tenacity to succeed in the start-up environment. “We’ve gone through what would now be considered old-school training, which has stood us in good stead because in start-up land you need to be resilient and believe in yourself,” he explains.
“You can be born with a lot of belief in yourself, but if you’re a Gen Y that can be kicked down pretty quickly. When you’ve got 20 years of experience under your belt, you take the knocks and keep getting up because you ultimately do believe.”
Born in the baby boom years after World War II – between about 1946 and 1964 – baby boomers are often seen as a privileged generation who enjoyed the spoils of low-cost housing and education. Now in or approaching retirement, boomers have a close eye on their superannuation. But instead of investing in shares or property, many are choosing entrepreneurship to grow their nest egg.
Clive Isenberg, 64, is a serial entrepreneur who first set foot in the fintech sector in 2007 when he founded Octet Finance. Despite launching on the eve of the global financial crisis, Isenberg has made a success from small-to-medium business lending.
He says boomers have weathered enough economic ups and downs to navigate the fintech landscape with skill. “Most baby boomers within the finance industry are approaching the end of their hands-on careers,” he says. “They would have experienced the effects of many economic booms and recessions and are now reflecting on that and introducing credible changes to protect and smooth the overall ride for both businesses that borrow and those that lend to address future booms and recessions.”
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