Time to Make Your Mark on the World

A panel from Inc. Founders House in Atlanta, 2023.
A panel from Inc. Founders House in Atlanta, 2023. Photography by Fred Daniels III.

Whether you’re 30 or 60 or 90, there’s never a wrong time to explore the power of entrepreneurship.

As you read this, we’ve just wrapped up hosting a few hundred entrepreneurs at Inc.’s Founders House, which we brought down to Atlanta. Among good discussion and great networking, we toasted upstarts in the local startup community with our 30 Under 30-ish recognition program. We’d asked well-respected business people, founders, academics, and others in the 404 to help our in-house experts with nominees, and I’m pleased to say we ended up with a group you’ll hear a whole lot more from one day–the people creating, or supporting the creators of, our future. It’s a good list. We waffled on the age thing a bit, but drawing a hard line at having to have been born only after May 1993 seemed a bit arbitrary, so, yeah, we kept it youngish and called it 30-ish.

That’s the thing about entrepreneurship–age really doesn’t make much of a difference. You see, while we think it’s important to shine a light on young founders, encouraging them in their endeavors, it’s worth noting that Bob Parsons was 47 when he created the company that became GoDaddy, Bill Porter was 54 when he launched what became E-Trade, and Colonel Harland Sanders already had white hair when he finally began the franchise model for KFC.

And then there’s Bobbi Brown, who graces the cover of this issue of Inc. at 66.

Brown has made her mark at both ends of the founding-age spectrum, launching her first business, Bobbi Brown Essentials, just after turning 30–before, by the way, nearly all on our 30 Under 30-ish list were born–and her next, Jones Road, three decades later. She’s a clear example of it being not the age but the idea that matters. That idea, for her, was to launch Jones Road as a direct-to-consumer play, available not just to those who could trek to Bergdorf Goodman, as was the case with Essentials, but, like so many new businesses, to everyone, on the internet.

Which brings us to another idea: the internet itself. Inc. editor-at-large Christine Haughney Dare-Bryan, after 10 months of reporting, managed to collect the key players in creating the Arpanet, the government project that became the internet you and I know today. The internet that Brown used to launch Jones Road. The internet our 30 Under 30-ish are using to create the future. Without these tech visionaries, who you will see are now mainly in their 80s and 90s, today would feel a lot more like a long-ago yesterday. Remarkable to think about, right? Haughney Dare-Bryan’s story begins on page 62.

What’s more remarkable is that the internet almost wasn’t. Some of the players at the time fought hard to keep the internet private–for university and military use only. Imagine how many fewer of our 30 Under 30-ish would have entrepreneurial careers without the internet. Brown could be in retirement!

We don’t discuss that fight–and it definitely was a fight–in this story, but Haughney Dare-Bryan explores it and the men involved, including her father, in an Inc. podcast called Computer Freaks. It premieres in just a few weeks. You can subscribe by scanning the QR code below. Give a listen, and I think you’ll be grateful that you, like me, are never too old to learn something new.