Why We're Seeing So Many Entrepreneurs Aged 40+

Would it surprise you to learn that there are twice as many entrepreneurs over the age of 50 as there are under 25? In a recent post on HBR blog network, Whitney Johnson explains why we're seeing more small business owners aged 40 and above.

"According to famed developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, as we grow older, hunger for meaning animates us, making us more alive," Johnson writes. "His theory explains that each healthy human passes through eight stages of development from infancy to adulthood. The seventh stage of development typically takes places between the ages 40-64 and centers around generativity, a period not of stagnation, but of productivity and creativity, including a strong commitment to mentoring and shoring up the next generation. Individuals in this developmental stage are supremely motivated to generate value, not just for themselves, but for others, asking the question: What can I do to make my life really count?"

In other words, entrepreneurs who have more life experience are likely to look for business ideas that will make a difference. The happy side effect of this is that businesses planned around things people actually need are more likely to find an eager customer base.

Then there's the fact that older entrepreneurs are more cautious. They might be risk-takers by nature, but their spontaneity is tempered by time and wisdom. Entrepreneurs who are over 40 are more likely to do their due diligence before jumping in with both feet. Perhaps that explains why they tend to make solid choices in terms of industries to focus on.

"The average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, health care, and aerospace is 40," writes entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa, whom Johnson quoted in her post. "Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25. The vast majority -- 75 percent -- have more than six years of industry experience and half have more than 10 years when they create their start-up."

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