Portrait of the entrepreneur as a young man (or woman)

Youth is overrated after all. At least, when looking to entrepreneurship. New research(1) published by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that popular perceptions that celebrate youth as a key characteristic for creating high-growth firms seems largely misplaced.

Many observers, and many investors, believe that young people are especially likely to produce the most successful new firms. We use administrative data at the U.S. Census Bureau to study the ages of founders of growth-oriented start-ups in the past decade. Our primary finding is that successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young. The mean founder age for the 1 in 1,000 fastest growing new ventures is 45.0. 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. These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs.

The portrait of the entrepreneur as a young hero might be due to venture capital firms mainly targeting younger founders.

Figure 1 reminds me of this other chart.


Featured image: TNW

(1) Azoulay, Pierre, et al. Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship. Working Paper, 24489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Apr. 2018. National Bureau of Economic Research, doi:10.3386/w24489.

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