Anatomy of An Entrepreneur in Word and Images

A couple of weeks back, Kauffman announced the results of a new study by Vivek Wadwa, Raj Aggarwal, Krisztina Holly and Alex Salkever that claims to ‘profile’ the typical high growth, successful entrepreneur. The survey is titled The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur. There is some interesting stuff in there and the thrust of the promotion and coverage is that entrepreneurs don’t like like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates (when he founded Microsoft). From the Kauffman press release (where you can download the study):

The survey found that more than 90 percent of the entrepreneurs came from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds and were well-educated: 95.1 percent of those surveyed had earned bachelor’s degrees, and 47 percent had more advanced degrees. Those from lower-upper-class backgrounds, however, were more likely to have been extremely interested in starting a business than the average entrepreneur surveyed (25 percent vs. 18.5 percent).

Seventy-five percent of the respondents ranked their academic performance among the top 30 percent of their high school classes, and 52 percent said they ranked among the top 10 percent. In college, 67 percent of the founders ranked among the top 30 percent of their undergraduate classes, and 37 percent ranked their performance among the top 10 percent.

More than half of the company founders surveyed (52 percent) had at least some interest in entrepreneurship while in college. Of those who described themselves as “extremely interested” during college, 47 percent went on to found more than two companies.

Founders tended to be middle-aged—40 years old on average—when they started their first companies. Nearly 70 percent were married when they became entrepreneurs, and nearly 60 percent had at least one child, challenging the stereotype of the entrepreneurial workaholic with no time for a family.

One of the most interesting findings to me is that roughly 15% of the entrepreneurs in the survey hold MBAs. This is similar to what Amar Bhide found in looking at the Inc 500 in his monumental study — The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses. It is also interesting because it supports my theory that the growth of entrepreneurship programs in graduate schools of business may be a wasteful use of resources.

BusinessWeek has graphically displayed many of the findings from the study here.

Check out the study and the images from it. There are some obvious shortcomings with the sample (in my opinion) that we will discuss further in later posts.


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