Age is nothing but a number. Yet somehow, we have given it more meaning than it should have. When we talk about successful entrepreneurs, we often attach a number at the end of their names to highlight just how great the feat they've accomplished. "Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook at 19!" "Steve Jobs founded Apple at 21!" We say in awe and amazement, and perhaps a tinge of regret.
The prevailing view for most people seems to be that successful entrepreneurs start young. Some theorize that young people are better entrepreneurs because they have the energy for it. Starting a venture from the ground up requires exceeding amounts of energy that have been gifted to the young. Time, it may seem, is on the side of the young ones. They are yet to have commitments that demand more focus and attention. Another theory is that younger people are more open to disruptive ideas. They aren't set on their ways, and often, they welcome out-of-this-world ideas easier.
Generally, these theories put most young people at an advantage. But, it doesn't mean that entrepreneurship is an endeavor reserved only for the young or that success is solely their province. Individuals turn to entrepreneurship throughout their lives. And a growing number of studies reveal to us the reality: older entrepreneurs have the edge.
Age and Experience
When Wharton management professor J. Daniel Kim conducted his study, he wanted to debunk some ageist beliefs that are especially common among investors. Famous venture capitalist Paul Graham once commented that the cut-off for entrepreneurs was the age of 32! He found that after that age, people start to be a little skeptical.
Kim's study throws that notion out of the window. He concluded: "There seemed to be this very consistent finding that the likelihood of entrepreneurial success rises with age."
Between 2007 to 2014, the average age of entrepreneurs starting their businesses was 42. We're talking about homegrown, small businesses like restaurants and laundromats. In high-tech industries, where you'd think younger entrepreneurs flock, the average age of founders was 43. In business-dense regions like Silicon Valley, the average age was still in the 40s.
For Kim and his co-researchers, the link between age and entrepreneurial success is experience. "The number of years that one spends in the same industry as the startup was predictive of that company's future performance," he said.
While observers think that age hinders us from starting our own later in life, this study reminds us that age is one of our best assets. With age, we gain more benefits, including more trusted social ties. More years can also mean better finances, better money management skills, and more practiced people skills.
Understanding Comes With Age
Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University, reminds us that it's the young, successful entrepreneurs that are outliers. In his own research, he discovered some inspiring reality. There are more successful entrepreneurs over 50 than there are under 25. The numbers grow higher for those over 60 compared to those under 20.
For Wadhwa, "The lesson here is that ideas come from a need; understanding of need comes from experience; experience comes with age."
It's Never Too Late, You are Never Too Old
With all the data we've been pouring over today, the point is this: your age should never stop you from starting a business at 40, 50, 60, or older. The older you are, the greater your chances for success. For Adeo Ressi, CEO of the Founder Institute, "the combination of successful project completion skills with real-world experience helps older entrepreneurs identify and address more realistic business opportunities."
Anna D. Banks is the CEO and Founder of Thrive Leadership Institute, a leading training & consulting company. She helps entrepreneurs reach the next level of their business, empowers leaders to achieve personal and professional growth, and coaches professionals to find the best career suited for them.
With more than 20 years of experience under her belt, Anna is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team, a Certified DISC Consultant and a Certified Career Coach, and completely passionate about helping leaders thrive.
Embark on your entrepreneurial journey, download a copy of her free ebook: "Discover Your Purpose, and Thrive in Your Life!"
Anna D. Banks, MAS, CHBC, Copyright© January 29, 2021. All rights reserved