What Does a Typical Entrepreneur Look Like?

What Does a Typical Entrepreneur Look Like?

So who is a typical entrepreneur? It’s a really important question because you might want to know whether you’re a typical entrepreneur, whether you’ll be successful, and you might want to invest in entrepreneurs and know whether they’ll be successful.

When we think about typical entrepreneurs, we tend to think about people like these two individuals: So there’s Bill Gates, and then there’s Mark Zuckerberg. These two have a lot in common. They’re both Harvard dropouts, they’re both programming geniuses, they’re both White males, and they’re both very young.

So this tends to be the example that we have in our head when we think about founders, and since there are others too. Steve Jobs was also a college dropout. We could think about other people like that who founded companies, whether Elon Musk or people like Jeff Bezos who are again starting companies relatively young, generally technical geniuses.

So is this accurate? Well, it’s a really big deal because this becomes our vision of what a founder is. It turns out founders don’t look like this, and the most successful founders tend to very much not look like this. So if you are not a young, male, college dropout from Harvard, there’s hope for you yet.

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Source: MIT OpenCourseWare

Now let’s talk about some of the myths behind this vision of the founder.

Myth #1, you’ll notice that these are all 20-something, 18-year-olds, late teen college dropout type of people.

It turns out that this idea of the young entrepreneur that’s so prevalent that even investors sometimes look for people with this sort of age gap of being younger entrepreneurs. It turns out to be very wrong.

And it also turns out, the average age for a founder of a successful company is 42. That’s not just any founding. Even VC-backed companies, the average age of a founder for a VC-backed company is also 42. Success for a macro giant success in a startup company peaks between ages 45 and 52.

Now, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start a company if you’re a young college dropout, but it also means that if you’re an older individual with a family, all the evidence seems to suggest that entrepreneurship is something that can be done at any age, and actually, you might be more successful as an older entrepreneur.

So this is a myth, a misconception that we have that young founder who works all the time and don’t have families are the most successful. That isn’t borne out by the evidence. These are really careful results, and they suggest that your 40s are the golden time to launch a startup company. Okay, so that’s one conception.

Myth #2: Another misconception is about the race and gender of the founders.

So you’ll notice Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates are all White males. But around 38 per cent of all businesses in the US are started by women. 36 per cent of all businesses in the United States are started by members of minority groups. So this conception that everybody who founds a company is a White male isn’t true.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t barriers that are often faced by women and minorities starting companies. It’s often harder for them to get started. Sometimes, harder to get money and initial resource in place.

But once you have those resources in place, I have some evidence from looking at thousands of startups that receive crowdfunding. Then once you’ve received funding, there is no difference that I can find based on race, gender, family status, even education level, or age on the kind of outcomes that startups achieve.

So once you have that funding, there doesn’t seem to be a reason why women would underperform men, or minority groups would underperform majority groups. So race and gender shouldn’t be holding you back from launching a startup too. It’s not that there aren’t particular constraints that you have to deal with and worries about bias.

Those are very reasonable worries and ones we’ll discuss in other lectures. But the idea that all startups are White males is also not based in reality.

Myth #3: A third error is based on attitude.

We tend to view entrepreneurs as these cocky, overconfident individuals with huge amounts of passion and with a particular personality type of being very driven and very focused. So some of that conceptions are more right than others.

Overconfidence, the idea that you’re going to succeed is predictive of people choosing to become entrepreneurs. It’s also predictive of people choosing to go into rock and roll, hip hop, or other fields where most people fail.

To go into these fields where failure is very common, you need to be overconfident, you need to think that failure won’t happen to me. However, overconfidence doesn’t predict your ability to succeed.

So overconfident individuals are not more likely to succeed than not overconfident individuals. So overconfidence helps enter entrepreneurship but doesn’t predict success.

Similarly, entrepreneurial passion does seem to predict success to some degree. So people who care about their business idea no matter what seem to be more likely to be successful and more likely to enter entrepreneurship but the effects are not particularly strong.

There’s no single personality type that dominates entrepreneurship. Some aspects seem to predict entrepreneurship and may be associated with success like having a locus of control centred on yourself, that the fact that you want to be in control of your destiny seems to be associated with some entrepreneurial activity, entrepreneur success.

But no factor’s such a large factor, no personality issue that’s so big that outweighs other concerns in entrepreneurship.

So if you don’t fit the typical entrepreneurial profile, you’re not as excited about your business as they are, and you don’t have the same personality type as they are, that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful as an entrepreneur.

Darren Hardy – Making The Shift – Developing The Entrepreneur Mindset


So in conclusion, there is no one type of entrepreneur, and entrepreneurship is much more diverse than Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg might give examples. So there’s no single personality, there’s no single type, anyone can enter entrepreneurship.

Many factors determine success. From the lectures that you’ll go through here, you’ll find many different models for entrepreneurial ventures, and you should feel confident that there is not one method we have of predicting who is going to be a successful entrepreneur. Many possible paths can take you forward.

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