The stereotypical image of a technology company entrepreneur is young, scrappy and brilliant, a la Bill Gates in 1982, Steve Jobs in 1984 or, say, Mark Zuckerberg in 2007. They’re almost always Ivy League dropouts.
Yet how accurate is this? A new study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and researchers at Duke and Harvard universities finds that this perception is largely off-base. In fact, most U.S.-born technology and engineering company founders are middle-aged, well-educated and hold degrees from a wide assortment of universities.
Based on data pulled from U.S. engineering and tech companies founded between 1995 and 2005, the researchers found that twice as many U.S.-born tech entrepreneurs started ventures in their fifties than did in their early twenties. The median age of these entrepreneurs when they started their companies was 39.
Though the vast majority of successful tech businesses were started by Ivy League graduates, 92 percent of them graduated from non-Ivy-League schools with bachelor’s degrees. Those with MBA degrees launched their companies more quickly than non-MBA holders.
“While education clearly is an advantage for tech founders in the United States, experience also is a key factor,” Vivek Wadhwa, the study’s lead researcher, said in a release. “That a large number of U.S.-born tech founders have worked in business for many years also is important in understanding the supply of tech entrepreneurs.”