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Executive Education

The myth of the millennial entrepreneur

According to Kauffman Foundation the average age of successful start-up founder is 40 years old. The typical entrepreneur isn’t a hover-boarding kid in a hoodie - it’s his mom or dad!

Millennial article visual

The generation celebrated for its start-up mentality is actually starting companies at the lowest rate in 25 years. The share of people under 30 who own a business has fallen by 65 % since the 1980s and is now at a quarter-century low, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data.

These statistics go against the typical media portrayal of an American start-up – developing a phone app in an open-plan office with dedicated lanes for 22-year-old executives on hover boards. Young people very well may lead the country in entrepreneurship, as a mentality. But when it comes to entrepreneurship as an activity, older generations are doing most of the work. The average age for a successful start-up founder is about 40 years old, according to the Kauffman Foundation, a think tank focused on education and entrepreneurship. (In their words, 40 is the “peak age for business formation.”)  The reality is that the typical American entrepreneur isn’t a hover-boarding kid in a hoodie - it’s his mom or dad. 

The next generation may be better prepared to start a company or, at least, better educated in an academic setting about the challenges of such an endeavor). The number of entrepreneurship classes on college campuses has increased by a factor of 20 since 1985, so it’s possible that there are thousands of future start-up founders who are currently employees sifting through ideas for their own firm. The Millennial generation may be like a dormant volcano of entrepreneurship that will erupt in about a decade.