The 2018 working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research used US Census Bureau data to investigate the link between age and entrepreneurship. Researchers calculated an average age of 45 among the 1,700 founders of the fastest-growing new ventures examined, or the 1 in 1,000 fastest growing firms.
Results were similar for high-tech sectors, entrepreneurial hubs and successful firm exits, with the research finding that a 50-year-old founder is about twice as likely to achieve a successful exit as a founder at 30 - dispelling the popular belief that young founders are especially likely to produce thriving ventures.
“We find no evidence to suggest that founders in their 20s are especially likely to succeed,” the researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management and the Census Bureau wrote.
“Rather, all evidence points to founders being especially successful when starting businesses in middle age or beyond, while young founders appear disadvantaged,” they said in the paper.
These findings are “remarkably at odds with public perception," the researchers wrote. They are, however, consistent with theories emphasising “the accumulation of entrepreneurial resources over the entrepreneur’s life cycle.”
In addition, the researchers challenged the notion that industry outsiders possess an entrepreneurial advantage.
“Prior experience in the specific industry predicts much greater rates of entrepreneurial success,” according to the paper.
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