In the world of tech and startups, there are often topics of discussion relating to the demographics of the founders. The Centre for Entrepreneurs recently released a study in the UK stating that migrants are twice as entrepreneurial as British-born people. Also, there have been highly contentious opinions on the accents of founders and the impact that the strength of their accents has on their ability to succeed. Women in technology and the number of female founders is also something that many are discussing, and even the benefits of a university education are sometimes brought into question too; even Harvard MBAs.
Age is another data point that can be added to the list above for analysis and discussion. Questions such as: what is the average age of a startup founder, what is the optimal age to be a founder and is it possible to be too old/ too young to start a startup, are all often asked.
The graph below shows the distribution of ages of the founders of billion dollars, venture capital-backed private companies.
It’s an interesting distribution that undeniably favours those between the age of 20-35. Of course, these $1bn companies are huge outliers and represent a very small dataset of total startups. Having said that, it’s an interesting graph to note as after all, for those of us that start startups, isn’t this the ultimate dream that we’re all swinging for in the long run? For those that fall into this age bracket, the signs are good. Even Fred Wilson, prolific New York based Venture Capitalist was quoted as saying that “tech is biased toward the younger generation” as the article notes.
In contrast to the graph above, the Kauffman Foundation conducted a study and released a report entitled “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur“. They found the average age of a founder to be 40 years old. Of course, I can think of a number of benefits of waiting until this age to start a company; the most obvious being years of experience under your belt.
Ultimately, age should not be a limiting factor in success. There are pros and cons about certain ages, and some people might have biases one way or the other. Regarding starting a startup often it is down to the circumstances and thought process of the individual. There will always be reasons to not take the plunge but in reality are these reasons even valid?
Having started a startup straight after university, the age of my co-founder and myself is sometimes brought into question. We dived straight in, without gaining experience in another job first. For some (probably most) people this has gained us admiration and the support has been overwhelming at times which is evidenced by the fact that we raised investment from a student and graduate-focused fund called Student Upstarts. However, for a minority, it has been a cause for contention, mostly for reasons unknown.
In my opinion, your age should be way down the list of factors that you consider if you’re thinking of starting a startup. With startups being the roller coaster that they are, the range of emotions from almighty highs to deep lows experienced by any founder on a day to day basis will dwarf the benefits or negatives caused by the founder’s age.
There are many metrics that startup founders can pay attention to at any one point in time. In my opinion, age should not be one of them. What’s your opinion?