Many of us might think ‘YES’ is the answer to that question. For many a young person being middle-aged equates to coming from the middle ages (as in the picture!). But recent research from MIT* turns this on its head and the answer to the question is actually a resounding NO!

The research challenges the received wisdom that the most successful entrepreneurs are students (preferably drop outs!) who build global companies from their parent’s spare room!

The role of the middle-aged entrepreneur

The research suggests that the most successful people are in the 30-60 age group. Middle-aged founders dominate successful exits. It is estimated that a 50 year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely than a 30 year-old founder to create one of the highest growth firms. Founders in their early 20s have the lowest likelihood of building a top-growth firm.

Why should this be the case? Perhaps we can look to the military or to NASA for an answer. Both senior military commanders (with exceptions) and astronauts selected by NASA are likely to be in their late 30s upwards. Whilst physical fitness is important, a range, of other skills is needed some of which come with experience and maturity.

Whilst it is absolutely true that children are very creative and we generally become less creative over time, other qualities which children don’t have come into being with maturity. With age, our social networks tend to grow, our decision-making is improved, we may have more financial resources and also inner resources.

All this should encourage owner-managers to work hard at their personal development and to acquire new skills, operate outside their comfort zone, be inquisitive, travel, keep fit, meet new people, ask questions, be willing to be challenged, be accountable and so on.

As the report says: “These findings are consistent with theories in which key entrepreneurial resources (such as human capital, financial capital, and social capital) accumulate with age. Mechanisms by which young people are proposed to have advantages (such as energy or originality) may still be operating, but if so they appear to be overwhelmed by other forces. Popular perceptions that celebrate youth as a key characteristic for creating high-growth firms appear largely misplaced. To the extent that venture capital targets younger founders, early-stage finance appears biased against the founders with the highest likelihood of successful exits or top 1 in 1,000 growth outcomes.

…but there is good news too for the over 65s!

The fastest-growing age group of UK business owners in the last ten years has been the over-65s, challenging the notion that twenty-somethings dominate the world of entrepreneurship.

Research from Barclays Business Banking has found that in the last decade, the proportion of so-called “olderpreneurs” in Britain has risen by 140 per cent, as a growing number of workers approaching retirement age try their hand at starting a business. In contrast, over the last ten years the number of businesses set up by 25 to 34-year olds in Britain grew by a more modest 23 per cent.

The data also suggests that the country’s mature entrepreneurs are having an increasingly important impact on the UK economy. In 2015, UK start-ups established by people aged 55 and over contributed more than £7bn to the economy, according to the research.
For the mature entrepreneur the following top ten business tips might be useful:

(1) Have confidence in your abilities.
(2) Know your subject incredibly well.
(3) Have a business strategy and know it inside out.
(4) Get tech savvy – get youngsters to help with this.
(5) Always take your time, even if you feel it is limited.
(6) Look after your wellbeing.
(7) Trust your gut instinct.
(8) Find your passion.
(9) Prioritise what is important to you.
(10) Gather a small team and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

At SME Strategies, we have seen time and again where owner-managers (whatever their age!) are enlivened with vision so as to keep their creativity and then resourced properly, their businesses can grow substantially. There are so many business owners who have wisdom and maturity that can be harnessed to build their firms, but a number need help to have the self-belief to really fly!

Read the full story at

*by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the US Census Bureau MIT / US Census Research