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Entrepreneurship Study Repositions Maturity in Successful Innovation

Tech entrepreneurs are redefined with this research into innovation and tech business startups.

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The Entrepreneur

A 2009 study supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, titled, “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur,” offers insights into high-growth founders' motivations and their socio-economic, educational, and familial backgrounds.

One common legend implies that most tech entrepreneurs are young, college drop-outs.

“The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur”

This research found that tech entrepreneurs don't fit that mold previously assumed by educators, investors or job seekers.

“The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur,” found that most high growth entrepreneurs do not fit the stereotype of young kids working out of their dorm rooms, but instead tend to be

  • middle-aged and married
  • have significant industry experience
  • are at a later stage in their lives trying to build wealth or to advance an idea that they think has potential
  • nearly 60% of entrepreneurs have at least one child
  • 80% of entrepreneurs said that inability to find traditional employment was not a factor in their deciding to start a business
  • most founders came from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds
  • most are well-educated and married with children.

The strongest motivation identified for starting a company was to "build wealth". Other popular motivators included capitalizing on a business idea; the appeal of a startup culture; a desire to own a company; and a lack of interest in working for someone else.

Investors, university technology transfer programs, and even employees looking for opportuity need to start looking at the situation from the perspective of those currently working and supporting families and weighing the risks and benefits of striking out on their own.

The identification of this older population of the real tech entrepreneurs has implications in issues such as healthcare, availability of small business loans, and small business tax policy.

The researchers also learned that, although only about half of entrepreneurs had an interest in entrepreneurship while they were in college, those that did are more likely to become serial entrepreneurs.

The findings reinforce USC’s philosophy that although the most successful startups aren’t necessarily created while students are still in school, the learning experiences that students have in college might determine whether they become lifelong entrepreneurs.

study here

RESOURCE: Vivek Wadhwa
Duke University - Pratt School of Engineering; Harvard University - Labor and Worklife Program

Krisztina Holly
University of Southern California

Raj Aggarwal
University of Akron - Department of Finance

Alex Salkever
Duke University - Pratt School of Engineering

Date of the research: July 7, 2009
Kauffman Foundation Small Research Projects Research

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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