Well-known entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg were in their early twenties when they launched their highly successful companies. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) explores whether these famous cases reflect a general pattern.
The HBR team analyzed the age of all business founders in the United States in recent years and found that the average age of entrepreneurs at the time they founded their companies is 42. In software startups, the average age is 40, and younger founders are common. However, young people are less common in other industries such as oil and gas or biotechnology, where the average age is closer to 47.
HBR discovered that among the top 0.1% of startups based on growth in their first five years, the founders started their companies when they were, on average, 45 years old. Evidence points to entrepreneurial performance rising sharply with age before starting to drop in the late fifties.
HBR concluded that work experience plays a critical role in founding a successful start-up. Those with at least three years of work experience in the same industry as their startup were 85% more likely to launch a highly successful company than those with no prior experience.