Earlier this year Business Insider had an article entitled The idea that most successful startup founders are in their twenties is a myth — the average entrepreneur is much older.
The article states that:
… the average age of entrepreneurs who started a company that went on to hire just one employee was 41.9, and the average age of founders who started a high-growth company is even older, at 45 years old.
The study also examined the age of entrepreneurs in sectors like specialized tech employment, venture capital investing, and patent firms, which yielded similar results: The average age of these people, too, was somewhere in their early-to-mid forties.
“Our primary finding is that successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young,” the study reads. “Founders in their early 20s have the lowest likelihood of successful exit or creating a 1 in 1,000 top growth firm.”
The study contradicts everything I’ve every read about high tech startups, starting with Microsoft, which was founded by two college dropouts in the 1970s up to Google and Facebook and beyond. VC like their founders young – the younger the better! Young people aren’t married, don’t have mortgages, are happy to sleep in the office, work in a bullpen, and will trade off salary for equity. They can work long hours because often they don’t have any one to come home to, certainly not children.
There’s a reason why virtually every high tech company’s offices look like college campuses – these companies want to recreate the campus atmosphere for students they hire fresh off of a college campus. It makes their transition from student to employee seamless. And with the rising cost of health insurance, young healthy hires in their early twenties are so much cheaper than middle-aged breadwinners with a spouse and kids, whose insurance cost can be four or five times that of a single recent college graduate.
I was reminded of the study recently when I read a New York Times Corner Office piece on inventor James Dyson: The Public Wants to Buy Strange Things, subtitled He made billions selling vacuums. Now he is backing Brexit, building an electric car — and making antiquated comments on ‘racial differences.’
I can see Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg nodding in agreement reading these quotes:
The point is, here’s this longhaired art student in the mid-’60s, getting asked to design something he knew nothing about. Then he’s told to set up a company, which he knew nothing about. That’s what I do today with my people. I try to recruit everybody as a graduate, because they have no baggage, they have enthusiasm and curiosity. I think experience can be fine in certain situations and with certain companies. But when you’re doing something very different, it’s often best done by people who have done nothing before.
Yes, this is just one data point, but it totally jibes with my experience of seeing hundreds of startups founded by college students, college drop outs, and recent graduates who, surprise, want to hire people who look just like themselves (which is why young white males and young Asian males dominate the management and employee population of tech industry growth ventures.)
James Dyson may be in the mold of British genius eccentrics, but from my experience all these accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, and startup companies are populated by young people. If you are older than 25 and looking to found or join a startup, be prepared to demonstrate your enthusiasm, curiosity, and evidence of doing wild and crazy things!