Have You Ever Noticed: Startup Age Discrimination

Have you ever noticed how few people over 30 or so get hired at early-stage startups, and while age discrimination is sometimes discussed, how rarely (if ever) you hear of startups being cited or working to age-diversify their early-stage hires?



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Comment by Robert Stevenson on May 13, 2014 at 6:20pm

I've thought about this a bit, Keith, and I have a few ideas on why startups tend to veer on the younger side:

-More experienced (read:older) professionals tend to be more risk averse. Why would they decide to invest a great deal of their time (50+ hours a week in startups) if the company might not be around in 18 months (worst case), or have a paltry $40M exit (best case) leaving them richer but again jobless?

-Startups can't meet the salary expectations of someone with 15, 20, 25 years experience, especially when they're already paying $100K (often more) a year to a team of SWEs with only a few years experience. Also, young people often don't have families and mortgages and can afford to roll the dice by trading a slightly lower salary for some equity.

-Recruiters who rely on social media as a source of candidates are less likely to find older candidates who have robust social presences

-Yes, the above mostly applies to early stage startups. But when startups grow to a certain size, you start seeing them bringing on the older crowd you're talking about to navigate the tricky waters of an IPO or acquisition. Like Dropbox did when they brought on Motorola's Dennis Woodside.

-This isn't as quantifiable, but I can tell you there's a general distrust to high-level outside hires in young companies. Startups prefer to promote from within, as these workers know the company inside and out (having built it) and also as the expectation of upwards mobility is a big draw for joining a start up in the first place.

Considering the disconnect between expectations vs. what a startup can truly offer, do older professionals even WANT to work for startups? I'm not convinced they do. 

Comment by Matt Charney on May 14, 2014 at 7:24am

Keith: Startups don't discriminate based on age, they just assume if you're over 30 you're already too rich to work for them if you're any good ;)

Comment by Keith Halperin on May 14, 2014 at 11:27am

@ Robert: Thanks.I 've worked for a fair number of startups, even in my dotage, and believe many geezers (over 30 y.o.) would be glad to work for them. What you've mentioned  could be used as self-fulfilling, self-reinforcing rationales for age discrimination. Hmmmm. it occurred to me while responding that many of the same rationales could be used to discourage people wanting to start/with families, many of whom are women. I wonder if that's why so many early-stage startups look like either frat houses or large"Settlers of Catan"games...

@ Matt: a three-pointer!


Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on May 14, 2014 at 9:27pm

I have a theory on this that I'd be willing to discuss offline. 


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