The entrepreneur whiz kid myth

What does the average entrepreneur look like? A 40-year-old cubicle refugee.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)

Photos
Startups defying the downturn
Think you have what it takes to start a business during a recession? These 8 entrepreneurs are giving it a shot, with mixed results.

(Fortune Small Business) -- Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. FedEx's (FDX, Fortune 500) Fred Smith. The image of the entrepreneur as whiz kid has serious currency in American business lore. But according to a new study from the Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City think tank that studies entrepreneurship, that image is a myth.

For "The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur," the foundation surveyed 549 company founders. Instead of a dorm-room genius, it found that the typical founder is middle-age -- 40, on average -- when launching a first company. Seventy percent of first-time founders are married; nearly 60% have at least one child.

They're also a study in class mobility: 59% come from lower-middle-class or blue-collar families, and almost half hold advanced degrees.

"The commonly held belief that entrepreneurs are young college students working out of their dorms is simply wrong," says study author Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization. "People typically come to a stage where they're tired of working for other people. They think, 'I'm 40 and I haven't made it big yet. This is my last chance.' That really spurs the entrepreneurial spirit."

Wadhwa knows from experience: Before entering academia, he founded a technology company -- at age 39.  To top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.




QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.

Sponsors
More Galleries
Cool cars from the 2015 Geneva Motor Show These are some of the stand-out cars and trucks on display at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. More
Yahoo: 20 years of hits and flops The company that once was Google turns 20. We look back at the many, many brands it has cycled through. Remember Geocities? Broadcast.com? More
10 big dot-com flops Remember Pets.com? The Nasdaq is roaring back towards its all-time high. Here are some of the biggest dot-com busts from the last time the Nasdaq topped 5,000. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play