Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

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
The stock market's wild week in 6 pictures It was the wildest week in stocks in recent memory. Here's photos and CNNMoney's tweets of reactions to the panicked selling on Monday and Tuesday, which gave way to a mad buying scramble on Wednesday and Thursday. And then...a selloff on Friday again. More
How New Orleans is learning to live with water After Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans had to reinvent the way it manages water and protects itself from future storms. More
Your degree will earn you the most from these colleges Art majors can make big bucks, too. Find out which school has the highest paid grads in your major. 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