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Start Your Business Entrepreneurs

Is Gray Hair an Entrepreneur's Secret Edge?

Is Gray Hair an Entrepreneur's Secret Edge? . / Credit: The advantages of age image via Shutterstock

It’s time for business to do what long-in-the-tooth rockers like Mick Jagger and Sir Paul McCartney have done for pop music—puncture the myth that that the young have a monopoly on entrepreneurship, The Economist reported. Research, in fact, suggests that age may be an advantage for entrepreneurs.

While 20-somethings like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg may get the lion's share of ink, the track record of business success is less in favor of the "infant entrepreneurs," as The Economist called them in its Feb. 25 Schumpeter column, than it is in their seniors.

A study of more than 500 American high-tech and engineering firms by California's Singularity University discovered that the average age of the founders of successful U.S. technology businesses—i.e., ones with real revenues—is 39. There were twice as many successful founders over 50 as there were under 25, and twice as many over 60 as under 20.

[Older and Wiser: Expanse of Knowledge Delays Big Ideas]

When the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on entrepreneurship, studied American firms founded between 1996-2007 it found the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity among people between ages 55 and 64; the lowest rating, The Economist wrote, was among the Google generation of 20- to 34-year-olds.

The trend of the aging entrepreneur also seems to be accelerating, the foundation discovered. People ages 55 to 64 accounted for nearly 23 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2010, compared with under 15 percent in 1996.

Experience continues to count for a great deal in business and in other walks of life, the publication said

"It is one thing to invent a clever new product but quite another to hire employees or build a sales machine," the Schumpeter author wrote. "And even when it comes to breakthrough ideas, age may still be an asset."

Ray Kroc was in his 50s when he began building the McDonald's franchise system; Arianna Huffington was 54 when she created The Huffington Post; and Colonel Harland Sanders was in his 60s when he launched Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith
Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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