Nowadays when people talk about startups, the first thing that comes to mind are the young 20-somethings wearing hoodies and sneakers: they’re creative, they’re optimistic and ‘failure’ isn’t part of their vocabulary. But a team of researchers – including experts from MIT, Northwestern and the U.S. Census Bureau – recently uncovered the truth behind the ideal age for successful entrepreneurs and their startups. And it might just surprise you.
Contrary to the hype in the media, the average age of most entrepreneurs in the U.S. is actually … 42. That’s right – not Millennials, but the middle-aged. While this number includes all new businesses in the U.S., when the data is further analysed to focus on high-tech startups the average age remains in the early forties.
Starting a business is one thing, but whether it’s successful is another. The researchers took it a step further, looking at the top 0.1% of startups based on growth in employment and sales as well as successful exits in their first five years. The average age of these founders was 45 years old. But, you may ask, what about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, all who started groundbreaking enterprises in their early twenties? There’s no denying that their exceptional talent and acumen as entrepreneurs won them a great deal of success early on, however it should be noted that the market capitalisation of their businesses peaked once they hit middle-age. Let’s take the iPhone, which is Apple’s most profitable innovation: it came out when Steve Jobs was 52.
There’s evidence that work experience plays a critical role in explaining the age advantage, however other factors, such as access to financial resources and deeper personal networks, are still to be explored. In any case, if you fear that your forties will bring nothing but a midlife crisis, maybe it’s time to reconsider things in a new light – it may just be the opportunity of a lifetime!
Read more about the findings and research methods used in the full article here