What is the best age to become an Entrepreneur? The answer of course = Any. There are however arguments and statistics to support differing optimal ages to leave your day job and become an entrepreneur, or to never enter the rat race of employment and startup in your teens for that matter. I find myself thinking about the age dimension as I meet younger and younger entrepreneurs who have found their calling for starting and growing businesses earlier in life than I found my own. This blog is an opinion piece and you are welcome to take it with a pinch of salt, the reality is that age is a factor in success as an entrepreneur, it sits alongside other characteristics of a business owner such as passion, drive, fortitude, vision and experience to name a few.
What do the analysts say
HBR‘s article “How old are silicon valleys top founders. Here’s the data” explores the correlation between age at startup with company value within this vibrant sector of the startup world. The standout statement within their results was “… we can conclude that founders under the age of 35 represent a significant proportion of founders in the billion-dollar club, and most likely the majority”.
Forbe‘s put a lot of stock in the under-30 age group with their annual “30-under-30’s” review. Analysis wise their analysts have published quite opposing views on this age topic. The most compelling piece I have read this year is “Why great entrepreneurs are older than you think” with links to studies and research demonstrating support for the title statement. The standout quote in this article is “Against all stereotypes, we found that the typical successful founder was 40 years old, with at least 6-10 years of industry experience. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are more than 50 as under 25“.
Sticking with Forbes a converse position presented in “Why 20 somethings are the most successful entrepreneurs” uses a sample set (some of) the most successful american businesses started within our lifetimes to demonstrate the assertion made in the title. The key takeout of this article supposes “One of the main reasons that young entrepreneurs can build incredibly successful companies is that they really don’t have anything to lose.”
- Founders of Google: Sergey Brin (25) & Larry Page (25)
- Founders of Apple: Steve Jobs (21) & Steve Wozniak (26)
- Founders of Microsoft: Bill Gates (20) & Paul Allen (22)
- Founder of Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg (20)
- Founder of Wal-Mart: Sam Walton (26)
This TechCrunch article “Is there a peak age for Entrepreneurship” provides yet another perspective – that the highly successful 20 something billionaire’s have skewed the actual data which presents a cross spectrum representative of both age at startup and success by age. The article provides us with a range of statistics compiled by the Founders Institute and represents 4 key entrepreneurial characteristics – Experience, Fluid Intelligence, Openness, Agreeableness. Their concluding statement aligns with my own experience of fellow entrepreneurs “In the end, classic biases of gender, race, and age need to be discarded for a real science of success.”
What my experience (or gut) tells me
There are pros and cons of every age to consider starting up, reasons for starting up and reasons to not – experience, risk aversion, money, kids, ideas, creativity, innovation, mentors, comfort, fear – to name a few.
My observation of the many many entrepreneurs I love to meet is personality traits outweigh age. Perhaps in your 20’s you are unencumbered by risk and nothing to lose but conversely you have limited experience. I had 2 kids at 23 and know I would have been a terrible entrepreneur as didn’t know how to co-exist within a workplace ecosystem. In my 30’s when I took my first step becoming a shareholder who still held a day job, I had a large mortgage and risk aversion crept in, perhaps too a little comfort with the status quo. So for me giving up my day job at 40 and stepping into the world of business ownership boots and all provided the right mix of experience, perspective, network, contacts, mentors and enabled me to reignite long since forgotten business ideas.
Any age is a good age if you have made the mental leap, crossed the risk divide and can harness your energy, fortitude, passion, focus, drive, vision and take the step!
Happy sharing, Vic.
New to my blog? you can read about Victoria here.