How old is the average tech entrepreneur?
When I was a teenager I had one goal in life: to write a novel before I turned 18, which is the age Mary Shelley finished her magnum opus, Frankenstein.
Fast-forward 12 years and the longest thing I’ve ever penned is my weekly shopping list.
But it turns out there might be hope for the Great Unmotivated like myself – for the late bloomers among us who weren’t writing poetry while we potty trained.
New research from MIT and the US Census Bureau has found that the average age of an entrepreneur, who started a company and went on to hire at least one employee, is actually 42.
This is a fairly broad remit but there does seem to be an emphasis on tech entrepreneurs – and when you look closer the stats back it up.
Charles Flint was 61 when he started tech giant IBM. Jim Kimsey was 44 when he started AOL, and even though Steve Jobs started Apple at 21 he was a 43-year-old CEO when the company created the iMac.
So where does the image of the stereotypical tech founder as a young teenager in a hoodie come from?
It could be because tech is considered a young person’s game, and when we were discussing this the other day my colleague Al said younger people are generally considered more au fait with tech, which means that investors are more likely to trust them.
It could be because of success stories like Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook at just 19, or Michael Dell, who created the computer conglomerate at an enviable 18.
Or it could be because there are actually shedloads of young scrappy entrepreneurs out there trying to shake up the industry.
I’ve been working on a list of 35 tech entrepreneurs under the age of 35 for our upcoming edition of BusinessCloud and forget Mary Shelley, they put me to shame.
We had nominations coming in left, right and centre from people as young as 17, or in their mid-20s with several start-ups already under their belt.
At an age where I was panicking about my A-Levels and binge-watching Six Feet Under, these young people are taking on tech titans and creating empires.
From the other lists I’ve done for the magazine – like our Tech 1sts list or start-up disrupters – I’d hazard a guess at the average age for starting a tech businesses being slightly younger than 42.
On the other hand maybe 42-year-olds are simply succeeding in the more traditional sense of the word – measured in employee headcount and turnover.
That might just mean that it’s time we broadened the definition of success.
With the barrier to entry being (at its absolute most basic level) a laptop and a good idea, people can now start businesses for lots of different reasons.
Many of those people – especially younger people – might be those who wouldn’t necessarily want to create a big corporate team but just want to work for themselves and solve a problem.
Because of the tech resources available these lone wolf companies are increasingly possible.
It’s incredibly heartening to hear that starting a tech company at a slightly later date, when you’ve got more experience under your belt, is a positive thing, as I think a lot of people over 35 feel like tech is inaccessible to them. Clearly that’s not the case.
But I think it’s also great that disrupting, innovating and working for themselves is something that the next generation is keen to do. I guess we’ll just have to watch this space.
Now, where did I leave my typewriter?