Fact of the Week: A 50-Year-Old is 1.8 Times More Likely to Create a Highly Successful Firm than a 30-Year-Old

Caleb Foote December 3, 2018
December 3, 2018

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A 50-year-old is 1.8 times more likely to found a highly successful firm than a 30-year-old.

Source: Pierre Azoulay et al., “Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship,” NBER Working Paper No. 24489, April 2018.

Commentary: From Microsoft to Facebook, there are countless examples of successful start-ups being founded by very young individuals like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. This creates the perception that youth is key for start-ups, especially in high-tech sectors. But an analysis of the 2.7 million founders who started companies that hired at least one employee between 2007 and 2014 gives reason to doubt that popular perception.

The average founder was 41.9 years old. But that increased to 42.1 years for the founders of the top 5 percent of firms in terms of the number of employees they had after 5 years. It increased again to 43.7 years for the founders of the top 1 percent of firms, and 45.0 years for the founders of the firms in the top 0.1 percent. Further, firms that had been acquired or had gone public within 5 years had a mean founder age of 46.7 years. These figures hold for high-tech startups as well, with average founder ages of 45.9 for firms in the top 0.1 percent and 48.4 for firms that were acquired or went public. 50-year-olds, having founded a firm, are 1.8 times more likely to reach the top 0.1 percent of employment after 5 years than 30-year-olds.