With all the press coverage devoted to Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter's Jack Dorsey and Foursquare founders Naveen Selvadurai and Dennis Crowley lately, you'd think that young entrepreneurs are the only successful entrepreneurs.
But the latest research suggests otherwise.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, people over the age of 35 made up 80 percent of the total entrepreneurship activity in 2009. That same year, the Kauffman Foundation conducted a survey of 549 startups operating in "high-growth" industries—including aerospace, defense, health care, and computer and electronics—and found that people over 55 are nearly twice as likely to launch startups in these industries.
There are several reasons for this. First, older entrepreneurs have more life and work experience. In some cases, they have decades of industry expertise—and a better understanding of what it truly takes to compete, and succeed, in the business world. Second, they also have much broader and vaster networks. Even if an older entrepreneur is seeking to start a business in an entirely different industry, they have deep connections from all walks of life—for example, a brother-in-law could be the perfect COO. Third, those over 50 have acquired more wealth, a better credit history (which helps with securing loans), and are smarter with their finances.
It's true that the older you get, the more risk-averse you become, but the Great Recession has changed that. Many older workers who lost their jobs have decided it was finally time to launch the business they've been talking about for years.
As for why older entrepreneurs don't get as much press coverage?
Stefan Theil of Newsweek puts it this way: "Part of the reason that companies started by older workers don't get much recognition is because they don't generally produce hot Web apps or other easily understood products. Instead, they tend to involve more complex technologies like biotech, energy, or IT hardware. They also tend to sell products and services to other businesses, which consumers rarely see but which do most of the heavy lifting in powering innovation and economic growth."
If you're part of the Baby Boomer generation, and you've always dreamed about starting a business, remember that Zuckerberg and the rest of America's young tech entrepreneurs are anomalies. You've got wisdom and experience on your side.