What were the ages of successful entrepreneurs when they started? Age is one of the top excuses that would-be entrepreneurs use as a crutch not to pursue their visions.
Are you too young to be taken seriously? Maybe too old to be listened to any more? Let’s take a look at the facts. They might surprise you.
Don’t worry. It is safe to keep reading. There will always be an available excuse if you’d prefer to hide in your shell on the sidelines. If you or someone you know just needs a little more proof that you are the right age to start your own startup, then this is definitely for you…
KFC’s founder reportedly started serving food at age 40, at a service station. It wasn’t until he has 65 years old that he began to promote his fried chicken franchise. Franchisees began by paying just four cents per chicken. He was 73 years old when he exited the company for $2M dollars.
While Steve Jobs may have technically only been 21 when the first Apple computer was built, many don’t consider him to really hitting success and peaking until the iPhone when he was 52 years old.
Mark Zuckerberg really changed the perception of entrepreneurship, what’s possible and the value of young entrepreneurs. Especially when thinking about the ages of successful entrepreneurs when they started. While certainly controversial, he started Facebook in 2004 from his college dorm, and became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire by the age of 23. This was really the tipping point for the hunt for young entrepreneurs.
Bill Porter founded E Trade at 54 years old. He took stock trading online and created a company which now has assets of around $65B. Bill launched it in first as TradePlus with just $15,000. The year after it became E-Trade they had $850k in revenues.
Bernard Marcus co-founded a little company called Home Depot when he was 50 years old. He is now worth an estimated $5.8B. All from a teenager who wanted to become a doctor, but wound up working in his father’s cabinet shop because he couldn’t afford the tuition.
Charles Ranlett Flint
Charles Flint brought together four companies to become the Computing Tabulating Recording Company in 1911. In 1924 that company became IBM. Flint also negotiated the first international sales of airplanes for the Wright Brothers. Definitely on the higher end when thinking about the ages of successful entrepreneurs when they started.
Despite being dyslexic, Michael Cammarata made his first million by the time he was just 13 years old. By 20 his business was making $100M. Today, he is the CEO of publicly-traded Neptune Wellness Solutions.
David Hauser launched his first business at just 17. It raised $120M and got acquired. He has gone on to launch several other startups, including telephone service Grasshopper which was acquired by Citriz for almost $200M.
In spite of nearly flunking out of high school and then suffering injury during military service Bob Parsons went on to create what is the largest domain name registrar in the world. Nearly 4x as large as its nearest competitor. Parsons sold 70% of the company to a private equity group including Silver Lake and KKR.
Finally breaking free from academia, Joe DiSimone decided to take on a 7,000-year-old industry and to change how things are made. Despite what many might consider a late start in entrepreneurship Joe has raised almost $700M for his venture Carbon, Investors include Adidas, BMW, Google Ventures, Sequoia, and Johnson & Johnson. Carbon is now worth an estimated $2.5B. Another great case that is never too late to start when wondering about the ages of successful entrepreneurs when they started.
Bill Clerico ditched corporate America at just 22 years old to start his own payments business. WePay raised almost $100M from investors like August Capital, the founders behind PayPal and YouTube, Highland Capital Partners, and SV Angel. Then he sold the company to JP Morgan for $400M.
Tim Hwang started out in the real world early. At 16 years old he was working on the Obama campaign. At 17 he was elected to local government and was managing a $4B budget and over 10,000 administrators. He then went on to raise $230M from Mark Cuban, Winklevoss Capital, Plug and Play and others. His startup uses AI to predict and understand politics.
Henrique Dubugras actually started out building his first company at just 12. He then started an online payments company with $1.5B in transaction volume, and sold it. Then finding that despite having hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank he still couldn’t get a credit card, he decided to launch his own. At just 22 years his new company has raised over $200M and is worth over $1B. Probably one of the youngest of this list that showcases the ages of successful entrepreneurs when they started
There are a lot of misconceptions about age, entrepreneurship and what it takes to be successful with your own business. These case studies smash those stereotypes. You can be 12 or you can be 70 and still start a highly profitable business.
It used to feel like no one would take you seriously unless you had a few grey hairs, or no hair at all. Now, some have gone too far in the opposite direction and are only looking at the youngest entrepreneurs for one reason or another. Yet, data from Harvard shows that the average age of software startup founders is actually 40 years old. It is 47 in the biotech space. HBR even poses that the probability of extreme successes goes up with age until your late 50s, at least.
So, however old you are, just get started. Then start your next one. If you’re still reasonably young (under 70), maybe you even have time for a third billion-dollar company.
For those of you in fundraising mode, remember that storytelling is everything in fundraising and you will need to be able to master this. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember that if you want a more robust pitch deck template you can use for free the one I created below which has been used already by thousands of entrepreneurs to raise millions.