It’s a Disservice to Urge Young People To Become Entrepreneurs

Jeffrey Tucker:

Young founders of businesses fail, almost certainly, and at a much greater rate that people who are much older, wiser, more skilled, and more knowledgeable about the industry. It turns out that succeeding in business is extremely difficult. It takes maturity above all else to achieve it. 

We know this now thanks to a fascinating studyby Javier Miranda, principal economist at the U.S. Census Bureau; Benjamin Jones, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and Pierre Azoulay, professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. They took a detailed look at the demographics of successful entrepreneurship. The results were so conclusive as to debunk the myth of the young startup founder. They paint a portrait that is much more consistent with your own intuition from experience. 

They conclude: “The mean age at founding for the 1-in-1,000 fastest growing new ventures is 45.0. The findings are similar when considering high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial hubs, and successful firm exits. Prior experience in the specific industry predicts much greater rates of entrepreneurial success.”

In other words, up with middle age! Actually, more precisely, up with experience, skills, discipline, and knowledge, all of which are more common among forty-somethings after two decades of work experience as compared with twenty-somethings. “Young people are just smarter,” says Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe so but it takes a lot more than that to make a successful enterprise.