'Zuckerbergism': Why the young founder myth is a trap for entrepreneurs
A recent study challenges the conventional thinking that says only young people can dream up successful new businesses.
- A recent study found that the average age of founders of the 1-in-1,000 fastest-growing new ventures is 45.
- The authors suggested that people tend to accumulate resources, skills and experience with age, all of which boost their chances of entrepreneurial success.
- The results suggest that young entrepreneurs should consider the long haul when planning new ventures.
There's no shortage of stories about young, hyper-successful entrepreneurs. From the Forbes' 30 Under 30 lists to films like "The Social Network", these stories offer an alluring blueprint for early success: dream huge, work hard, and soon enough you too can get filthy, tech-titan rich.
You're less likely to hear the more common story: a young entrepreneur starts a new business, accrues debt, runs out of luck, gets demoralized and then, reluctantly, takes on a regular job. What explains the frequency of these crash-and-burn stories? It seems the problem doesn't lie in the pursuit of entrepreneurism, but rather in the age at which entrepreneurs start launching businesses.
Most successful founders aren't exactly young
That's the takeaway of a recent study that found the mean age for the 1-in-1,000 fastest growing new ventures to be 45 years. This finding held true across "high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial hubs, and successful firm exits." So, although conventional thinking tends to paint the young generation as uniquely creative innovators and (sorry in advance) Big Thinkers, it seems that older generations are more likely to possess traits that facilitate entrepreneurial success.
"We find that age indeed predicts success, and sharply, but in the opposite way that many propose," the researchers wrote. "The highest success rates in entrepreneurship come from founders in middle age and beyond."
The basic idea behind this age-success relationship is that people tend to accumulate skills, resources and experience with age. However, the findings did reveal some caveats:
"Overall, we see that younger founders appear strongly disadvantaged in their tendency to produce the highest-growth companies. That said, there is a hint of some interesting age thresholds and plateaus in the data. Below age 25, founders appear to do badly (or rather, do well extremely rarely), but there is a sharp increase in performance at age 25. Between ages 25 and 35, performance seems fairly flat. However, starting after age 35 we see increased success probabilities, now outpacing the 25-year-olds. Another large surge in performance comes at age 46 and is sustained toward age 60."
To dream or not to dream?
So, what's the lesson for young, prospective entrepreneurs? It's not to stop dreaming big. But maybe it's wise to start dreaming more strategically — to broaden the definition of entrepreneurism to include more low-cost, low-risk paths, like carving out entrepreneurial opportunities within your current job. That way, you can accumulate more of the experience and skills that'll help to fortify your entrepreneurial pursuit when the time comes.
The findings on age and success also imply that young entrepreneurs shouldn't fall into the trap of comparing themselves to the outlier young-success stories — the Zuckerbergs, Musks and Gates' of the world.
"We should stop lying to young people about commerce and tell the truth that business is hard," Jeffrey A. Tucker wrote in an article for the American Institute for Economic Research. "Work is hard. Saving money is hard. Serving customers is hard. For some people, just showing up is hard. These are all learned skills. The fun comes once you master them."
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
Numerous U.S. Presidents invoked the Insurrection Act to to quell race and labor riots.
- U.S. Presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act on numerous occasions.
- The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
- The Act has been used mainly to restore order following race and labor riots.
It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.
- Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
- Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
- Where's an El Niño when you need one?
Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.
NOAA expects a busy season
According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.
Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.
What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.
This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.
Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:
- The ocean there is warmer than usual.
- There's reduced vertical wind shear.
- Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
- There have been strong West African monsoons this year.
Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:
ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.
First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.
Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.
Image source: NOAA
Batten down the hatches early
If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.
Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."
Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.
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