Who is Bill Gordon?
I solve problems, which is what entrepreneurs do. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurship is not a genetic outcome, it is a set of skills that can be learned at any stage of life. At the core it is simply a way of thinking. It is, first and foremost, understanding how to recognize opportunities to solve problems. Once a problem is recognized, entrepreneurship is about using creativity to imagine and then to implement innovative solutions.
Successful in Multiple Fields
In recent years, I have combined teaching entrepreneurship in formal programs with mentoring select individuals including former students. Helping others along this path is very energizing, especially when we make a collective impact as I guide my students and mentees towards their respective goals. Along my own path through life, I earned a Ph.D. from UC Berkley and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. These experiences allowed me to be called an award winning (Gates Grand Challenge Grant Award) cellular biologist. I have been a finance professional who raised in excess of four billion dollars of debt and equity to support broadband expansion in Spain, France, Germany and Belgium in the 1990s. These days, I prefer to describe myself as an entrepreneur and online educator teaching my own generation because that is where my heart is.
A Real Person
I have been married for 34 wonderful years to my wife Noelle, we have two amazing adult sons, Wyatt (26) and Cooper (24). I have been vegetarian for 9+ years, fully vegan for over 4, exercise regularly, practice yoga, meditate daily (I am on currently a close to 975 day streak) and am enjoying the change Noelle and I made when we moved to Portland, Oregon in December 2014 after decades in the Northeast where our sons were born and raised.
Where Did the Idea for 50Plus Nation Come From?
50 is the new 40.
However, unlike at 40, at 50 change is the order of the day; lots of change either begins in earnest or can be seen on the horizon. From 2012-14 I taught entrepreneurship to Millennials and young Gen X students in accelerator programs in CT and at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in the MFA in Design for Social Innovation program in NYC. The energy of the students was contagious. They were generally either trying to figure out how to use entrepreneurship to change the world, but, in many cases, they were just trying to create their own jobs in a fickle economy. I was still a consultant to the state of CT while teaching as Graduate Faculty at SVA, but I began to ask myself where all of this was leading for my wife Noelle and I. It didn't take long to realize it was whetting my appetite for another entrepreneurial adventure, the opportunity to solve another problem. My goal was to build try my hand at building a business online.
I began by analyzing my own life.
I also looked at long time friends in my same age bracket. The biggest concerns I could see were empty nests, careers starting to wind down slowly, or in some cases ending abruptly, based on economic hiccups, switching from stay at home Mom or Dad status to facing the challenge of trying to rejoin the workforce in an "ageist" job market. In many cases I saw folks my age boredom or general complacency, hoping against hope for a greater sense of purpose going forward. What was most astounding was the number of friends we saw who chose to divorce as the last child left home, unable to face the empty nest with their long time partner.
I realized most of us have some great news.
Thanks to medical science and healthier living we have likely been gifted with a decade or more of additional time. Most 50Plus people I know still have dreams of a bright future, in spite of the concerns I cited above, and are looking forward to the additional time. Yet this gift doesn't come without challenges that need to be addressed.
Putting the pieces together, I sensed opportunity.
As I was finishing my first year at the School of Visual Arts teaching entrepreneurship to Millennials and Gen X students, it hit me that both of these generations were being very well served by the program I was co-teaching or others like it. Yet I was beginning to realize that the 50Plus demographic could use a strong dose of entrepreneurial education. That's when it dawned on me that no one was focused on teaching entrepreneurial thinking to us. That's how the seed for what is now 50Plus Nation was planted.
It's not that we weren't entrepreneurs earlier in life.
Collectively, we have made significant impacts. Entrepreneurs in our 50Plus cohort such as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, and Larry Ellison, just to name a few, helped give birth to the most important developments of the 20th century, personal computing and the Internet. Because of the Internet we are now all living at a powerful convergence — with incredible forces of innovation, transformation and connection available at everyone's fingertips. The Internet still has huge untapped potential to positively impact lives, especially those of the 50Plus generation.
Millennials were the first "digital natives".
They were born into the world even before it was beginning to connect digitally at scale. Once it began we slowly dipped our toes in alongside them, and we learned enough to be dubbed "digital immigrants". On balance we watched as they eventually dove in, experimenting, connecting, collaborating as they successfully leveraged the Internet for a wide range of their own needs.
The big news: we now have a chance to be first.
We are the first human beings to hit 50Plus, the second half of life, with the seemingly limitless power of digital interconnection at our fingertips. What does this mean? The fact that any one of us can reach over 4 billion other human beings almost instantaneously is BIG NEWS. In spite of our unique personal blends of expertise, knowledge, skills, talent, and wisdom accumulated over three decades or more of life experience, the "ageist" job market doesn't want many of us, just when we thought it might help. This is where we can be very DISRUPTIVE because, as a result of the Internet, we don't need to depend on the job market any longer. We have tremendous value that we can repackage and offer directly to our fellow citizens of the world. We can truly make our own jobs online.
We have a choice whether to use the full power of the Internet or not. Using it will allow us to be true "digital pioneers". However, to do it successfully means we have to embrace entrepreneurial thinking to guide us.
Not a repeat of the digital land grab.
That may be what comes to mind when you hear the word "entrepreneur", immense wealth ending up in the hands of a lucky few after taking huge risks. Let's be clear - I am not talking about playing entrepreneurial lotto where a few winners take all, again this time.
Entrepreneurial thinking is about solving problems.
Tina Seelig of the famed Stanford University entrepreneurship program quoted from a long standing saying at Stanford, in her book Insight Out, "Entrepreneurs do much more than imaginable with much less than seems possible". She punctuated this reference with her own words, "as this message communicates, entrepreneurship isn’t just about starting companies. It’s about starting anything". In a separate quote she said, "it behooves us to teach people of all ages to be entrepreneurial, enabling them to invent the world in which they want to live".
50Plus Nation's mission is to help people who are 50Plus maximize the gift of longevity.
Some of us will need more income to support ourselves and our loved ones. Others will want more experiences or a renewed sense of purpose. All of that can be addressed by taking full advantage of our wealth of life experience and coupling it with the power that the interconnectedness the Internet has given us to reach the majority of our fellow citizens on the planet with ease. Embracing entrepreneurial thinking will be the key.
My role models:
50Plus Nation will introduce you, whenever and wherever we find them, to others in our 50Plus cohort that have already embraced entrepreneurial thinking in their own unique ways. However, every one of my personal role models in online business are Millennials or young Gen X folks. I don't want 50Plus Nation to be a completely age-exclusive community or discussion. I want it to be a place where generations can cross over when it is best for everyone. We have a lot to offer each other!
One last question: why the name 50Plus Nation?
These changes are happening to quite a few of us. 50Plus is no longer just Baby Boomers and our parents. Gen X has been joining the bottom rungs of the ladder in the 50Plus cohort for two years now. You might ask, "But, why use the term nation, that sounds grandiose?" Very simply, given that there are 110 million of us in the US alone, if we were an independent nation we would be the 12th largest nation on the planet. That's a big number, it is something to reflect on. To me it makes it clear that this work and thinking is important. Moreover, and most importantly, it is about building community because we will need each other in order to thrive as a 50Plus entrepreneurial nation.