The stories of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates often give budding entrepreneurs the impression that they have to be college dropout tech geniuses to be successful in business. This notion, as it turns out, is outright misleading and incorrect.
In fact, recent findings suggest that people like the Zuck are actually the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. According to the results of a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average age of a successful startup founder is around 42.
Interestingly, the benefits of older age strongly correlate to success. The more successful a business is, the older the average age of its founder. While the average age of entrepreneurs in the top 5% of fast-growing startups is about 42, the average age of those in the top 0.1% is 45. The reason behind this is simple: experience.
Entrepreneurs pursuing their first startup are 125% more successful if they have worked a previous job in an industry relevant to their current venture. It’s a fairly intuitive idea that experience in a given industry is a helpful boon for small business success. When a person works in an industry long enough, they start to see the inefficiencies and market opportunities present in the industry. Also, they’re likely to have accrued a good deal of relevant contacts.
According to a working paper by MIT Sloan professor Pierre Azoulay and PhD student Daniel Kim, “we know that with age a lot of benefits accumulate. For instance you get a lot of human capital from experience, you also get more financial resources as you age, as well as social connections, all of which will likely boost your odds of success as an entrepreneur.”
According to one study led by the Kauffman Foundation, mid-career entrepreneurs are five times more likely to be enjoying a successful business after five years than entrepreneurs coming straight out of college. Of course, that’s just what happens when you put a more experienced driver behind the wheel of a new business. It tends to stay in the fast lane.