Tech Founders Not All In Their 20s

    May 1, 2008

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.