Late Bloomers. book by Rich Karlgaard
Sure, young people are great at cranking out software. All they need is a laptop and an idea, and arguably they’re better at seeing opportunities in the world of culture (like Facebook or Snap). But if you want to pioneer new battery technology or bioengineering for growing crops in zones rendered arid by climate change, you’ll need to navigate regulated industries and pull off research that requires a PhD or more.
Today’s science is getting more and more complicated and specialized. “We’ve never met a biotech founder who’s 25 years old,” Azoulay notes. Fadell is an investor now and is putting money into “the hard stuff,” including biotech. He was an early investor in Impossible Foods, a company that wants to curb our consumption of C02-heavy meat by making plant-based substitutes and which was founded by a 57-year-old professor of biochemistry (see Pat Brown, page 73).
So maybe it’s time to actively unlock the power of older innovators. Tech firms could build more multigenerational teams, much the way hospitals pair younger surgeons (fast, eager to learn) with older ones (experienced, seen it all). Meanwhile, Silicon Valley investors should reconsider their ageist biases. “People over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas”—as venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has said—is a sentiment that clearly needs to be retired.Clive Thompson (@pomeranian99) is a WIRED contributing editor. Write to him at email@example.com.