Not all entrepreneurs are young — Jim Dougherty

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Jim Dougherty

From Xconomy

Most of the famous entrepreneurs we hear about are fairly young. We tend to read in the popular press about the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world and assume that all successful entrepreneurs launch businesses in their 20s. However, this couldn’t be further from reality.

Recent studies show that older entrepreneurs are increasing while the number of younger entrepreneurs is decreasing. According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, the share of entrepreneurs in the 55-64 age group jumped from 14.3 percent in 1996 to 23.4 percent in 2012. In contrast, the share of entrepreneurs in the youngest age group of 20-34-year-olds decreased from 34.8 percent in 1996 to 26.2 percent in 2012.

An article by the well-known scholar and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa in the Washington Post discusses a similar study in which Wadhwa found that the average and median age of successful founders from 1995-2005 was 39. He stated that twice as many founders were older than 50 as were younger than 25.

In a follow-up study, Wadhwa found that the average age of male founders in 12 high-growth industries was 40, and the average age for female founders was 41. He noted that the Kauffman Foundation, building on those findings, determined that the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity is in the 55-64-year-old group. Wadhwa attributed three motives for successful older entrepreneurs to start companies: they have ideas for solving real-world problems, they want to build wealth before they retire, and they like the idea of being their own boss.

Read the full post at Xconomy. 

Jim Dougherty is a Senior Lecturer in Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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