No age is too old for a challenge

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No age is too old for a challenge

The author is the head of fol:in team at the JoongAng Ilbo.

On July 30, the D.CAMP, a non-profit organization funded by twenty banks in Korea, opened Front One, a space to support start-ups, in Mapo District, western Seoul. At the demo day event for investors, an unusual thing happened. Breezm, a 3-D eyewear brand started by entrepreneurs in their 40s, won among the seven teams that gave presentations in the main round.

The preliminary round was an intense competition among more than 140 companies. It is unusual for middle-aged entrepreneurs to thrive on start-up demo day, which often serves as a gateway for young entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s.

Founded in 2017, Breezm is a unique team. The three co-founders are in their 40s and are experts in their own fields. Park Hyung-jin, who gave a presentation, is 46 years old with experience in opening an eyewear store and a rooftop bar after working for a foreign company. The other two members are a former accountant and M&A expert, and a former head of a brand consulting firm.

Their path after starting the business is also unique. They first met in early 2017. They agreed that making eyeglass frames using 3-D printing could resolve the chronic problems in the industry such as custom fit and inventory. But they didn’t set up a corporation right away. They met once a week and studied. After a year of trials and errors, they thought they had sufficient technology and registered a business at the end of 2017.

They didn’t open a store after founding the company. They held pop-up stores once a month or two at shared office spaces and met customers in order to refine the products based on customer responses. They opened the first store in December 2018. Park said he had wasted money by opening and expanding stores before he was fully ready when he was young. “Now is the right time to start a business now that I have the insight to find the right people and use my energy selectively.”

On the demo day, entrepreneurs’ ages varied more than ever —ranging from 20 to 60. D.CAMP’s Jang Shin-hee said that start-ups tend to be considered as exclusively run by young people, but more middle-aged and older people are taking on the challenge. They often persuade investors with expertise and experience.

“I see no future but it’s too late to start afresh.” Career accelerator Kim Nai said this is what she heard most often when coaching workers in their 40s at the knowledge platform fol:in. No age is too old for a challenge. An American research team surveyed 2.7 million entrepreneurs and analyzed that the age group with the highest startup success rate was between 44 and 46, just like the Breezm team.
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