Ben Worthen of the WSJ offers an interesting post on tech entrepreneurship, age, and education. Worthen reports on a recent Kauffman Foundation survey that finds, contrary to popular views, most enginnering & tech firms are founded by older workers. (the report is titled Education & Tech Entrepreneurship). From the post:
Instead, the average tech entrepreneur was 39-years old when the company was founded, says a survey released Thursday by the Kauffman Foundation. The survey asked questions of 652 U.S.-born execs at tech companies started between 1995 and 2005 and with revenues of at least $1 million. Not only was the average founder pushing middle age, but also nearly five times as many founders were over 45 (24%) as were younger than 25 (5%) when their companies got off the ground.
Only 8% of founders hadn’t completed a college degree, contrary to the image of the Bill-Gates-like college dropout. Forty percent had a masters degree or a PhD.
This study confirms many of our suspicions regarding various types of campus entrepreneurship. Our continued development of a typology of campus entrepreneurs will benefit from this study and its definitions of engineering and technology firms.
For campus entrepreneurs that employ advanced technical skills and extensive campus resources (both human and physical) during the opportunity identification and firm development phase, we expect entrepreneurs to be older and hold or being working towards advanced degrees.
I don’t believe the sample in the study was in any way specific to this site’s concept of campus entrepreneurs, but again, given the technical fields outlined in the study (aerospace, computers, bioscience, semiconductors, etc), it is likely that campus entrepreneurs in those fields will not be undergrads. Also, I bet there were a some campus entrepreneurs in the sample.
It has long been my bias to explore non-technical fields when studying campus entrepreneurs. An interesting question that begs further research is whether internet based products, services, and businesses are counted in the Kauffman Study.
As far as I can tell they are not; so many of the newer web firms that we are seeing would not be included — the most obvious recent example being Facebook, but others, including Yahoo and Google would not be included according to how I interpret Appendix A.
This study is very interesting and the ability to compare and contrast its entrepreneurial frameworks, definitions, and findings with ours will hopefully get us nearer to understanding the phenomenon of campus entrepreneurship.