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“Senior” entrepreneurs win over younger ones

Updated: May 20, 2020

Becoming an entrepreneur when you are over 50 is a plus, in all countries. Research shows that such entrepreneurs have a higher likelihood of success.

This article looks at why people over 50 should become entrepreneurs.

“Senior” entrepreneurship- entrepreneurs who are over 50- is a topic close to my heart. Why? I, and my colleague at Behavioural Shift, are “senior” entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the fact that I’m over 50, means that I’m an entrepreneur out of necessity. Most employers prefer to employ younger people, who tend to be less experienced than older people. OK, younger people have been taught the latest trends in marketing and technology, or whatever subject they have specialized in, but have they retained that knowledge? Just because the founders of startups have come straight from university or college there is no guarantee that they will be successful.

In writing this article I was looking at the success rate of entrepreneurs. According to research, the most successful entrepreneurs were “senior” entrepreneurs.

“Successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young,” according to Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship, a paper by Pierre Azoulay and J. Daniel Kim of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Javier Miranda of the Census Bureau’s Center for Administrative Records Research and written in Forbes magazine (2018).

The fact that “senior” entrepreneurs are often more successful than younger ones may seem surprising since we are told constantly how well young entrepreneurs are doing. He or she might be as young as 16. Mark Zuckerberg is still the face of younger entrepreneurs (he’s only 35 now) and he started Facebook with his college mates back in 2004 when he was only 20. That’s very off-putting for older people who often decide that they are too old to become an entrepreneur.

“The study’s researchers calculated a mean age of 45 among the 1,700 founders of the fastest-growing new ventures in the US. They also found the ‘batting average’ for creating successful firms rises dramatically with age. ‘A 50-year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely to achieve upper-tail growth than a 30-year-old founder,’ they wrote, according to the Forbes article.

Looking at these statistics we’d be better off investing in older entrepreneurs. “They are actually far more successful than younger ones,” according to the research.

Young entrepreneurs may have some advantages, including, as mentioned before, having the latest knowledge in marketing, technology and/or their chosen field. Often, they are more flexible than an older person as they may not have a family- but an employer would be wrong in assuming everyone older is “inflexible”.

The myth of the young entrepreneur is an age-old image. Focusing how senior entrepreneurs can contribute to society is a neglected topic. Behavioural Shift aims to change that.

A researcher from Poland wrote: [i]“Senior entrepreneurship as a progressive form of integrating seniors in social innovation processes seems a neglected topic.”

There must also be “increasing” focus on how success is measured. Money might be one way of measuring success but so too are measures such as customer satisfaction, company growth, employee satisfaction, market position and competitiveness and, if you are a social entrepreneur, achievements in making changes in a particular sector.

Behavioural Shift will investigate these topics in more depth in subsequent blogs.

  1. [i]

Photo: Carole Railton embarking on her entrepreneurial journey.

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