“Consumer Internet entrepreneurs are like pro basketball players,” a venture capitalist told me recently while discussing the prospects for a thirty-something founder, “They peak at 25, by 30 they’re usually done.”
Why? Because young entrepreneurs are more creative and imaginative, and are willing put 100% of their lives into their startups, he said. “It’s not a guess, this is a data driven observation,” says the VC.
He had a number of caveats. First, this only applies to consumer Internet entrepreneurs. Enterprise and hardware startups tend to do better with older founders, where experience (and direct sales experience) matter a lot. And there are plenty of founders that, like Michael Jordan, can peak way beyond 25 (and the peak basketball age is really probably at least a 27). “Those tend to be the repeat success founders,” he said, “the rules don’t apply to them.”
Peak age of startup founders is an endless debate. Vivek Wadhwa says his data shows that older entrepreneurs are more successful, for example. He argues that ageism is more about exploiting young people more than getting value for money.
Other data suggests the opposite. Like this – last year Y Combinator said the average age of their founders is 26. Of course they could have selection bias, but Y Combinator is one of the most data driven investors I’ve heard of. if older people did better, they’d be funding more of them.
At Disrupt in New York in May we’ve got a very cool interview planned. SV Angel says they’ve analyzed deep demographic data for their 500+ investments over the last twelve years or so. It takes years to know how successful a startup will eventually be, so this is particularly valuable data.
Will they agree that Internet startup founders should be looking to make a name for themselves before they hit 30, or give up? We’ll know in a few short weeks.