For entrepreneurs, 40 is the magic number

The time-honored stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Jerry Yang, and Sergey Brin starting up their ventures while just barely out of their teens are the stuff of entrepreneurial legends. But the typical first-time entrepreneur is not a 20-something -- research shows that their average age is 40. (Which says that half are even older.)

Ian Mount, writing in CNNMoney, cites a new study out of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation that looked at the histories of 549 company founders and found they tended to act on their entrepreneurial impulses a bit later in life.

Maybe they simply had enough of working for The Man at that point. As Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization put it: "People typically come to a stage where they're tired of working for other people. They think, 'I'm 40 and I haven't made it big yet. This is my last chance.' That really spurs the entrepreneurial spirit."

In a previous post here at SmartPlanet, we cited the work of Paul Kedrosky, senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and editor of Infectious Greed, an economics blog, who discussed some of the issues faced by the typical over-35 entrepreneur. The biggest obstacle for these individuals, who tend to have families, is healthcare coverage. "Their concern is 'what happens if I get sick,'" he explains. "And that prevents many of those people from going out and being entrepreneurial."

Of course, entrepreneurship doesn't have to necessarily mean bailing out of the corporate world and hanging out one's own shingle. Successful companies know how to foster the entrepreneurial spirit from within, so when those 40-something employees get the itch, they have an outlet where they test and build their ideas and innovations. It's smart business to nurture and enable the entrepreneurial spirit that will enable individuals to generate their own success; as well as the company's success.

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