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Mature Entrepreneurs

April 5, 2024 | Posted in: Insights

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article profiling Morris Chang who founded Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) which the Journal labeled the world’s most important company. In contrast to other semiconductor companies, TSMC does not design or market semiconductors; rather it manufactures them for other companies such as Apple and Nvidia using a partnership model. The most interesting thing about Chang is that he developed this ground-breaking concept at age 55, considerably past the age at which well-known tech entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg started their companies.

As it turns out, Mr. Chang’s profile is not that unusual-our common image of tech entrepreneurs as whiz kids is not entirely correct. A 2020 study by Jones, Kim, and Miranda published in the American Economic Review found that the median age of the founders of the fastest growing new ventures was 45. Similarly, the highest overall success rate was associated with founders in their middle age or beyond. They found that a better predictor of success than age was prior experience in the industry in which the start-up operated. The authors posit that younger entrepreneurs often benefit from energy and originality, but those qualities are overwhelmed by other attributes that accumulate with age such as human capital, financial capital, and social capital. I guess there is hope for those of us with gray hair after all!