This excerpt has been taken from “The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship” written by Mr Inderjit Singh. (Chapter 14: Lessons Learnt During the Dot Com Days, Page 225)
This story shows how being a young entrepreneur was considered important in the dot com days. Together with a group of fresh graduates, we started a dot com company. They were all in their mid-twenties, while I was in my late thirties. When we decided to sell the company, we found a European company that was doing something similar to us in Europe. They wanted to acquire our company to get their business jumpstarted in Asia.
After initial discussion over emails and over the phone, we met in person to finalise the deal. The meetings started in the morning in our office, and the discussions were handled by a colleague of mine. When the key terms were almost settled, with a few irresolvable issues left, the next meeting was held in my house, after dinner the same day.
When I met the people we were dealing with, I was surprised to see two persons in their twenties leading the European company. When they met me and saw how “old” I was, at the age of 39, they told me that in the new economy, successful entrepreneurs needed to move at internet speed, which is, you have to decide things and do things very quickly, and to do this, you need to be young enough to keep up with the pace. In fact, they told me I was too old for the new economy, which was an era for only those in the twenties. For those older, the pace is just too tough because activities have to be done at 24/7 (24 hours a day and seven days a week, non-stop). I was told I was too old to participate in the new economy or in dot com businesses.
In any case, I quickly learnt the 24/7 operation when we negotiated the deal with the European company. We started negotiations after dinner in my house and completed the deal at 3 a.m., working non-stop. In between the negotiations, the two young men had to call their equally young partners in Europe to get buy-in on the deal conditions. Fortunately, for the tea my wife made for us, I had no problems operating 24/7 that day.
It does not matter what age you are, entrepreneurs these days are in their early 20’s, some even in their teens. The pace of business is moving faster than it was 20 years ago, and we should ensure that we take the steps to keep up, so that we can build better businesses in the next 20 years.