Do you have to be young to be successful in your entrepreneurial journey? The answer can easily be yes, given that famous examples like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page all launched their world-changing business at a young age, several in their teens and most in their twenties.
The association between young age and success has been so common that the founder of Y Combinator Paul Graham once jested that “the cutoff in investors’ heads is 32… After 32, they start to be a little skeptical.” Is that true?
According to a joint research project by MIT Sloan, UPenn Wharton, U.S. Census Bureau and National Bureau of Economic Research, the average age of successful entrepreneurs is indeed 45. Statistics indicate middle-aged entrepreneurs tend to be more successful; those in their fifties are 2.5 times more likely to succeed than their 20-something counterparts. An older entrepreneur can potentially bring better return for venture capitalists as well.
In Taiwan, there seems to be a deep impression that startups are all led by youngsters and college dropouts. This can be wrong again.
In a survey of around 200 Taiwanese startup (co-)founders by Business Next, 39.8% and 60.1% of them are now above 41 and 36. On average, they were around 38 years old when they started their company.
This survey, conducted from Aug. 1 to Sep. 18, 2019, is part of Business Next’s annual report on Taiwan’s startup ecosystem.
Female startup (co-)founders account for 20.8% of the surveyed, and 47% of them are above 41 — a percentage much higher than that of male (co-)founders.
Before diving into their ventures, 81% of the (co-)founders in their forties have 10+ years of work experience while 86.9% of all the surveyed have at least 3 years of work experience.
Industry experience fuels startup success, as revealed by the aforementioned research project. (Co-)founders with 3 years of work experience are 85% more likely to succeed than those who start from zero.
Among all the surveyed, 46.4% have master’s degree while 9.9% have PhD. In the 41+ year old demographic, these figures are much higher: 63% have master’s degree while 14.2% have PhD.
In terms of their educational background, 34.5% studied electrical engineering/computer science, 33.1% studied business, and 22.7% studied other fields of science and engineering, followed by 13.2% majoring in marketing and 10.9% in literature, art and design.