Age Discrimination and More: Beyond The Valley

Having launched my first startup when I signed my first lease at the ripe old age of 14, I’ve never had any regrets over a lifetime of entrepreneurship and startups. Even with all the exhilarating highs and the depressing lows. Heading into 65, I’ve looked back on all the things that have made me one of the ultimate Outliers: Age, education, race. I can finally say I truly embrace being… Different.

A friend sent me this recent article from Medium this morning about that unspoken prejudice down in the Valley and it set me off to thinking about this more:

How Can We Achieve Age Diversity in Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley has always been prone to buzzwords, often annoying and almost always overused. The latest is an exception: diversity. Suddenly, there’s an explosion of discussion, press, conference panels and even executive attention devoted to expanding the workforces of tech companies into something other than enclaves of white and sometimes Asian males. One result has been a trend towards releasing diversity reports that show how incredibly far we have to go.

Read the rest of the post from Medium by clicking HERE

Not only does this happen in the Valley but just about everywhere else I’ve been. I still remember launching my first tech startup back in ’83 when I invented and developed the first color digital scanners for PCs. There were few venture capitalists back then but I do recall one of them actually telling me, “But you’re so young!” And I was 32! Today, that would make me old by Valley standards! So now at 64, I’m way too old? I remind a lot of the young kids I mentor at startups here in the Pacific Northwest that Colonel Sanders didn’t even make his first million until he was 68! And then there are those kids launching successful ideas and startups at 12!

How about education? I’d like to think that investors and VCs know better by now that having a college degree does not necessarily make you any better prepared for the startup world. In fact, much of the time, a college education might actually hold you back from that Think-Outside-the-Box mentality that it often takes to be able to come up with the coolest ideas that make a great product or concept, while formal education can often make you think Inside-the-Box. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs never finished college. As a joke, I used to kid around with my children that when I make my next fortune, I’ll probably donate $10 million to a university of my choice and they’ll probably grant me an honorary degree for it! (And I promise I haven’t abused any women along the way so you won’t have to take it back later!)

And the toughest hurdle I’ve run into over the years that’s REALLY never spoken about? Race. Here in the Pacific Northwest where racial diversity has become a rallying cry, I would often feel that sense of being different as I walked into one more white-frat-boys-club VC firm with little diversity in their membership or Board. So I’ve certainly empathized with women trying hard to make their way into tech over the years. Fortunately, with the gender issue now taking front and center everywhere, more women are finally getting representation on boards and funding.

But as an “old,” “uneducated” and Asian Outlier, I’m still not sure if I truly feel welcome in many places even though no one talks about it. I’m not sure if a dialog can be helpful but by putting it out there, I’m hoping it might be a good time to start.

One of the things I truly hate are all those 20-over-20 and 30-over-30 awards and stories while no focus is given to most of us with a lifetime of accomplishments, big and small. How about 60-over-60? To which I say to all the Millennial startup kids: You’re not going to stay 30 forever! Even with all the talk these days about mentors and mentoring, who do you think is going to give you the best advice based on experience?

Are there any older entrepreneurs out there willing to chime in and discuss some of these issues? How about Asians and other minorities?

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