When many aspiring entrepreneurs think of a startup founder, they usually imagine a college dropout with a brilliant idea and a lot of passion and time that allow them to go through the hard times.
Yet, in the case of startup founders, the cliché does not seem to be very representative of reality. In fact, there are a few surprising startup statistics that point in the opposite direction when it comes to the common features of a successful startup founder.
First, even though the college dropout myth is definitely still widely present in startup culture thanks to the story of people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, dropping out of college to start your own company is most definitely the exception rather than the rule.
Founders Aren’t College Dropouts
A study by the EMK Foundation shows that 95% of entrepreneurs have at least a bachelor’s degree.
While it is possible to start a company and to drop out of college once it becomes successful and too demanding of your time, this is very rare. Most entrepreneurs don’t start a company in college, and even those that do, don’t usually have a business in their hands that justifies abandoning their education.
Keeping in mind most startup projects fail to garner significant traction, it’s generally speaking not a smart move to put your education on hold in order to dedicate your full attention to a startup project that’s actually not a business yet.
On Average, Tech Founders Aren’t Kids
While the geeky young prodigy makes a great story for the media, another study by the EMK Foundation shows that the average age of a tech startup founder is 39 years old.
This doesn’t mean that college-age people don’t make good startup founders. On the contrary – the period in life with the least responsibilities (no family and most importantly – kids) is one of the best periods to start a risky project. Surviving on ramen is an easier option to take when it’s only your diet you need to worry about.
Yet, this age has its drawbacks: namely lack of professional experience and lack of access to a powerful social network and capital.
In fact, a 2018 study shows that a 60-year-old entrepreneur is 3 times (!) more likely to build a successful startup than a 30-year-old founder. And a 40-year-old founder is 2.1 times more likely to be successful than a 25-year-old founder.
So, the college-age founder is not only less common than expected but much less likely to be successful.
While there is a romantic notion of the young generation being in touch with the new trends while the older one is not, it’s questionable if this is even an important prerequisite of starting a successful business.
Access to a powerful social network and access to capital, however, is without a question a huge advantage, and people in their sixties have a four-decade head start in this regard compared to college-age founders, which shows in the data.
This is the reason why involving a mentor is a crucial component for success for any first-time founder.
In summary, if you are at a later stage of your life you shouldn’t think that tech startups are just for college kids. On the contrary – you might have a huge advantage compared to young founders.
And if you are a first-time founder yourself, you shouldn’t underestimate experience. The best thing you can do for your project is to involve somebody with long-lasting industry experience.