Josh Buckley, CEO of an online gaming start-up, is looking forward to next month’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, particularly for the parties and the accompanying schmoozing with industry A-listers.
There’s one problem: Buckley, who will turn 20 this week on February 22, may be turned away from many of the parties because he is not old enough to drink.
Such are the dilemmas facing the young entrepreneurs that Silicon Valley investors are backing these days.
“At a certain point, they can’t get much younger or we’re going to be invested in preschool,” quipped Marc Andreessen, whose venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is one of several that backs Buckley’s company, MinoMonsters.
Andreessen and other venture capitalists say the entrepreneurs they fund at 18 or 19 typically have been prepping for years — learning computer code, taking on ambitious freelance projects and educating themselves on the Internet.
Internet businesses that target consumers make a sweet spot for the baby-faced, because online companies often require relatively little capital. A semiconductor start-up might require $10 million to $20 million in the early stages, noted Joe Kraus of Google Ventures, and that would be tough even for the most talented youngster.
“If I’m going to write that big a check, I’m going to invest in people who’ve done it before,” he said.
Kraus helped back Airy Labs, an educational social-gaming company run by 20-year-old Andrew Hsu that raised $1.5 million.
Kraus said his biggest hiccups with young entrepreneurs are the business references they don’t understand because they are too young to be aware of them.
Most of the young entrepreneurs say their interest lies in building rather than selling companies. Buckley said exactly that in response to inquiries he received from Facebook about a possible sale. His determination stems from the advice he received from a successful executive he met last year: Mark Zuckerberg.