From Nick Kalliagkopoulos – Prime Ventures (@kalliagk)

Mark Zuckerberg started facebook at 19. Jan Koum founded Whatsapp at his early to mid thirties. Robert Noyce founded intel at 41. Ray Kroc started McDonalds at 52 and Charles Flint launched IBM at 61.

But is there really a right age to start a technology startup?

My personal view would be that technology startups are more fitted for younger people. Of course there are always exceptions. But in order to excel in a technology startup, you need to be able to operate in an extremely fast changing industry. That being said, throughout the past years I have seen many older founders excel, that have the energy, stamina and persistence of a 20year old, combined with a lot of experience and wisdom. Therefore, I would never use the age of a founder as a decisive criterion when analyzing a company.


When looking at real life data, the above graph shows that you are never too old to start a company. Since, various VCs have argued throughout time over the one or the other side of the argument (Fred Wilson for example, argued that he expects that the median age of the founders of USV’s portfolio to be around 30), it would be interesting to see whether VC is biased towards younger people.

In a Harvard Business Review article, researchers tried to measure the age of founders at recent Unicorns – $1Billion VC backed private companies. The full article can be found here and the main results showed that the average age at founding a company in the dataset was jut over 31 and the median 30. It also becomes clear that founders under the age of 35 represent a significant portion of founders in this dataset.


When using the same techniques to look at the age of the current CEOs, one can see that this group is significantly older (being 42 years old on average). By way of comparison, the average age of an incoming CEO to an S&P500 company is 52.9. “Even when it comes to installing older leaders, VCs seem to prefer the young”.


The dataset of course includes a successful (therefore non-random) group of founders.