What Is the Ideal Age to Be An Entrepreneur?

The research finds no evidence to suggest that founders in their 20s are especially likely to succeed
What Is the Ideal Age to Be An Entrepreneur?
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Entrepreneur Staff
Correspondent, Entrepreneur Asia-Pacific
3 min read

Age doesn’t really matter when it comes to following your passion. You must have heard people say entrepreneurship is a young person’s game, although, a study published in the Harvard Business Review by MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, states that the average age of a successful startup founder is 45.

The research led by professor Pierre Azoulay came to a conclusion after studying the top 0.1 per cent of startups based on growth in their first five years. The study found that the founders started their companies, on average, when they were 45 years old. The findings are broadly similar when considering high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial hubs, and successful firm exits. Prior experience in the specific industry predicts much greater rates of entrepreneurial success. The findings strongly reject common theories that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs.

Many believe that young people are especially likely to produce the most successful new firms. The research also looked at 2.7 million business start-ups between 2007 and 2014 and found the average age of people who founded a business and went on to hire at least one employee was 42.

 Is Age Just a Number?

In part, the dominance of middle-aged founders like Jack Ma, Jan Koum and Milton Hershey in starting the highest-growth companies reflects the tendency of middle-aged people to start ventures. Middle-aged people take many more bites at the apple. However, when you look at success rates conditional on actually starting a company, the evidence against youthful entrepreneurial success becomes even sharper.

The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience: either because the experience is not especially valuable or because it reduces the capacity for novel, transformative ideas, researchers say.

Older Entrepreneurs Are Likely To Be More Successful

Taking numerous measures to identify potentially high-growth firms as well as studying actual returns ‘’’of each firm, the research finds no evidence to suggest that founders in their 20s are especially likely to succeed. Rather, all evidence points to founders being especially successful when starting businesses in middle age or beyond, while young founders appear disadvantaged.

“Among those who have started firm, older entrepreneurs have a substantially higher success rate. Our evidence points to entrepreneurial performance rising sharply with age before cresting in the late fifties. If you were faced with two entrepreneurs and knew nothing about them besides their age, you would do better, on average, betting on the older one,” says the study.

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