Is It Too Late for You to Be an Entrepreneur?

Is it too late for you to be an entrepreneur? If you want to skip the article and get the quick answer, then here it is. Absolutely not.
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Is it too late for you to be an entrepreneur?

If you want to skip the article and get the quick answer, then here it is.

Absolutely not.

At the time of writing this article, I am a healthy 31-year-old male. I realize I have the benefit of life expectancy on my side. If everything goes as planned, I should have another 47.7 years of this entrepreneurial adventure. So, sure, it's easy for me to say,

"It's not too late for you to be an entrepreneur."

But it's a valid question, and it draws us deeper into some of the chronological complexities of entrepreneurship.

Is there any right age for entrepreneurs to become entrepreneurs? Are all entrepreneurs the proverbial lemonade-stand business kids, pawning DVDs in their high school hallways and dropping out of Stanford? Does one ever become so ossified by the corporate grind that they give up on their entrepreneurial dreams?

No, no, and no.

Again, lest you doubt due to the perspective of my young(ish) age, let me provide a bit of evidence, then a bit of advice.

Here's my message to entrepreneurs, from 8 to 88. It's never too early. It's never too late. Let's do this.

Evidence: The "right" age for entrepreneurship.

There isn't one. There is empirical evidence, however, suggesting that the average age of the entrepreneur is around 40.

But, honestly, since when do we appeal to the law of averages to make our decisions and guide our lives?

Let's take a look at some of the evidence, compiled from the Kauffman Foundation study, i4j Summit white paper, and other sources

  • "The typical successful founder," defined as a "high-growth," is 40 years old.

  • Successful founders have 6-10 years of industry experience. This eliminates Stanford dropouts and teen prodigies.
  • The vast majority of successful entrepreneurs (95.1%) graduated college.
  • The majority of successful entrepreneurs were married (70%) with one or more children (60%) when they became entrepreneurs. More businesses emerge from crayon-strewn kitchen tables than Stanford dormitories.
  • The highest rate of entrepreneurs in the United States comes from the 55-64 age bracket.
  • Gordon Bowker founded Starbucks when he was 51.
  • Ray Kroc started McDonald's when he was 52.
  • Arianna Huffington founded Huffington Post when she was 55.
  • Charles Flint founded IBM when he was 61.
  • Colonel Sanders founded KFC when he was 62.
  • So much for spending your sunset years on Floridian golf courses.

    Advice: Why mature people make the best entrepreneurs.

    It may seem a bit presumptuous to offer my advice to the gray-hairs who might be reading the article.

    For that reason, this isn't "advice" as much as it is encouragement. You can even take these as compliments if you like.

    Why do mature people make outstanding entrepreneurs?

    • They have tons of experience. Experience breeds perspective. Those who have labored in the workforce have a perspective that can foster disruption, innovation, and invention.

  • They have amassed years of wisdom. Wisdom pays off in spades, bestowing powerful business acumen on those who wield it.
  • They've watched progress and technology unfold over the years. This gives them the belief that the same can happen in the future.
  • They have thousands of business and personal connections who can aid and abet them as an entrepreneur.
  • They usually have more money to bootstrap a venture or launch a business. According to one study, 70% of entrepreneurs use their personal savings as the primary funding source for their first business.
  • They have built a reputation. The longer you live, the more people you meet, and the wider your social sphere becomes. This expands your network, increasing the potential success of your entrepreneurial ventures.
  • They are more innovative. Innovation stems from being attentive and making connections between circumstances and events. The longer one lives, the more likely this becomes.

  • They have learned the details of their niche. Spending two, three, or thirty years in a single industry allows you to really understand the deep workings of that niche. This is a powerful advantage for aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • They are more realistic. Young entrepreneurs are idealists, and where would we be without the wild idealism of an Elon Musk or Steve Jobs? We need idealism. But we also need realism. With age comes realism, and that realism can serve to ground an entrepreneur in valid reasons for launching a company. For example, an idealist entrepreneur may be fueled by his disgust with corporate greed. A realist entrepreneur may be fueled by the reality of the opportunity for a new product.
  • HBR contributor Whitney Johnson nailed it:

    "Entrepreneurs get better with age."


    Entrepreneurship is a game without rules, protocol, or out-of-bounds. You can do anything, dream anything, create anything, and be as old or young as you want...not that you have much of a choice about your age.

    It is this single, non-negotiable force, then, that we must grapple with: age. Will you let it block you from entrepreneurship, or will you allow it to spur you onward to greater things?

    Your age isn't going to change. But you can. You can make the choice today, yesterday, or ten years from now that will catapult your career to the dizzying heights and dismal lows of entrepreneurship.

    As it turns out, the only right age for becoming an entrepreneur is the age you are right now.

    Are you an entrepreneur? What age were you when you started?

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