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Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship (WP-18-11)

Pierre Azoulay, Benjamin Jones, J. Daniel Kim, and Javier Miranda

Many observers, and many investors, believe that young people are especially likely to produce the most successful new firms. The researchers use administrative data at the U.S. Census Bureau to study the ages of founders of growth-oriented start-ups in the past decade. Their primary finding is that successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young. The mean founder age for the 1 in 1,000 fastest growing new ventures is 45.0. The findings are broadly similar when considering high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial hubs, and successful firm exits. Prior experience in the specific industry predicts much greater rates of entrepreneurial success. These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs.

Pierre Azoulay, International Programs Professor of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Benjamin Jones, Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

J. Daniel Kim, PhD Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Javier Miranda, U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Administrative Records Research

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