Does Looking Young Change The Way Of How People Think Of You?
I’ve recently met an Asian male in his late 20s at a hackathon event. This young individual looks 16, but he’s actually in his late 20s. For the sake of this article, let’s give him a name of John. John told me that when he was pitching his ideas to investors, they all treated him like a little kid and said he looked too “young.” So the ultimate question is whether or not looking too young is a bad thing in the business/startup world?
My great friend Andy who is an active investor and founder of a early stage angel funding group in China says that it is never too young in China, but people do think differently in the states. When I was working at Baidu, we had people that looked like they were 14, but nobody ever criticized them because they were able to put in work.
Andy said that he invests in teams and not the age. If you are 15 and you created something ridiculously good then he will provide funding for you, but he did say that the lack of experience due to age might give him a hesitant feeling. He also commented that if the entrepreneur lacks experience because of age, the investors will have to put in a lot more work than they want to. Overall Andy concluded that he will never ignore somebody because they are a kid, and a true businessman and investor should not do so either.
Westerners seem to think a little differently than the Chinese. In United States, my cousin is a real estate agent and have been running a real estate brokerage for over 12 years. He started as a regular agent when he was 19. My cousin told me that he was only able to close one sale the first year mainly because of how young he looked. He would walk into a real estate open house and everyone would ignore him or not take him seriously.
My cousin also had a terrible time dealing with clients. Clients didn’t want to work with someone who wasn’t old enough to buy their own home, at least that’s what the clients were thinking of. Mentors recommended him to wear an “older suit” so that clients will take him more seriously, but that didn’t really help.
I spoke with a mentor at a startup accelerator program about what they think about young looking individual. The mentor told me that age and look didn’t matter since he believed that the best time to run a startup is during or post college. The older you are the less they will invest in you because a lot of times the older individuals have family to take care of and more obligations that they have to worry about. At the end the mentor said that it’s all about the team and the product that the team developed.
Should I change my image if I look too young?
No absolutely not, use your disadvantage as your advantage. Younger people tend to have more energy than other people. The younger ones want to succeed and build something successful. It all comes down to how well you present yourself and how well you gain the respect of your surrounding peers.
This is why I believe a startup and tech environment is perfect for anyone that looks young. Tech startups have people of all ages and all talents. The younger individuals won’t feel like a black sheep of the family. A problem that I do hear a lot of older individuals speak about is how older people don’t like to work for younger people. When I asked them why? They questioned me back by asking, would you want to work for a 15 year old looking CEO?
Regardless, do not let the fact that you look young strike you at work. Be yourself and do your best and earn your peers respect. Show them you can do it better than anybody else regardless of looks.
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