Tech Founders Not All In Their 20s

Average age is 39

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The common belief that all entrepreneurs who start tech companies are in their 20s or teens is being challenged by a lengthy study that started in 1995 thru 2005 which found that only 1 percent of American founders were teenagers.

The study by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and researchers at Duke and Harvard found that most U.S. born technology and engineering company founders are middle-aged, with the average and median age of 39.

The majority (92%) of founders had bachelor degrees, 31 percent had master degrees, and 10 percent had PhDs. Close to half of the degrees were in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. One third was in business, accounting and finance.

"While education clearly is an advantage for tech founders in the United States, experience also is a key factor," Vivek Wadhwa, lead researcher, Harvard Law School Wertheim fellow, Duke University executive in residence, said.

"That a large number of U.S.-born tech founders have worked in business for many years also is important in understanding the supply of tech entrepreneurs."

Close to half (45%) of the tech startups where started in the same state where the founders received their education. Of the tech founders receiving from California, 69 percent later went on to create a startup in the state, 58 percent did the same in Michigan, 53 percent in Texas and 52 percent in Ohio.

The top universities were tech entrepreneurs were most likely to earn their degrees include Harvard, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, MIT, University of Texas, University of California-Berkeley, University of Missouri, Pennsylvania State University, University of Southern California, and University of Virginia.

"Because entrepreneurship is an indicator of economic vitality in regions and across the country, this study raises important policy questions about how to foster greater tech entrepreneurship to boost economic growth," Robert Litan, Kauffman Foundation VP of Research and Policy, said.


Tech Founders Not All In Their 20s
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  • http://www.digitalsearchmedia.com Jim Hobson

    I think that the notion that tech firms are started by 20-somethings developed from the news stories focusing on those that found good fortune.   Our firm, like many of our associates’ firms, were started by middle aged guys that had spent years developing business skills while staying abreast  of technology.

    The results are businesses that are operated by people with knowledge and understanding.  This is to say that decisions are made based on sound business principles and that client projects are completed in a manner conducive to business (not showcasing whiz bang effects).

    Geographical location, for us, has relevance only for having a large pool of prospective clients and for having a respectable pool of employees.  The idea of founding our company when we were in our 20’s is laughable.  I don’t see how "kids" can run a profitable business unless they have some well heeled investor/mentors. (Note the earlier comment about needing knowledge and understanding.)

    As for how to foster greater tech entreneurship, I think that this is going to be an organic process where experienced people become disillusioned with corporate nonsense and move out to take control of their life.  Such angst generally isn’t prevalent among the 20-somethings thus the higher percentage of older business people becoming entrepreneurs.

  • Mangi

    It is never easy being an entrepreneur. Challenges that come with any business may disillusioned many people trying to make it big. Unless with proper marketing and business strategy, I doubt it a 20 year old can sustain a business even if there are stories about the tech students becoming millionnaires at such an age. The notion that some killer applications can turn some kids from rag to riches is blown out of proportion. In my country, most of the tech companies which are considered successful are "connected" to certain middle age persons. NO one will listen to you even if your idea is that good unless they were told to help you out by some political "cables".

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