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The Age of Entrepreneurship

The Age of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship. It conjures images of twenty-something graduate students hacking code in a Silicon Valley dorm room, fueled by a steady supply of Red Bull and Ramen. Starting a tech company requires youthful vigor, endurance, freedom from obligations like mortgages, imagination, and an intimate understanding of what’s trendy and hip. Right?

To be sure, a number of tech titans started more-or-less this way: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard, to name a few.

However, a new study published last week by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation – the group devoted to fostering entrepreneurship around the world – suggests that the age distribution among company founders is much broader than we might have imagined.

The study offers several findings:

  • Technology company founders born in the U.S. had an average age of 39 when they started their companies.
  • Among a sample of companies started in 2004, two-thirds of founders were in the 35-54 age bracket.
  • The 55-64 age bracket exhibited the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity from 1996 to 2007, while the 20-34 bracket actually had the lowest rate.

However, these findings don’t come as much of a surprise to us here at Cayenne Consulting. We’ve spoken with thousands of entrepreneurs, and although we don’t ask people their ages, we do witness the experience they bring to a new venture. Those who succeed at generating interest from investors tend to have decades of business and technical experience.

The study’s author argues that the shifting age distribution in the U.S., coupled with a continued decline in job security, will put more middle-aged people in this entrepreneurial sweet-spot. As a result, “we may be about to enter a highly entrepreneurial period.” I hope she is right, because entrepreneurship will clearly play an important role in our return to economic prosperity.

But perhaps the most encouraging insight for those who’ve ever thought “I’m too old to start a company” is simply this: No, you’re not!


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Author(s) (other articles by )
Original Publication DateJune 25, 2009
Related categoriesNuts & Bolts

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  • NaShawn Branch

    As new-minted MBA’s enter the job market, entrepreneurship may be the only option for success. According to the Google, unemployment rate was 9.7% as of June 2009(Google, 2009). Harvard University reports that the average age of business students is 27.(Harvard, 2009) By the time graduates enter the job market, we could see a new force of young entrepreneurs dispelling those age brackets.

    keep Achieving,
    NaShawn Branch

  • Eric Powers

    In my work with entrepreneurs in sectors other than technology, I have consistently seen entrepreneurs span these ages, from teenage entrepreneurs I work with through the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to grandmothers. The question of what differentiates entrepreneurs in these different age brackets may be the type of company. If researchers look more closely, they may find that the retired and experienced in the 55+ bracket are often starting small businesses and microenterprises, while the younger may be starting more technology-based firms. Or perhaps the burst of self-employment/entrepreneurship at retirement shifts the numbers up. Either way, it is important to expose myths like the youth requirement for entrepreneurship.