< Return to KF Review home page
Jeff Harbach Jeffrey Harbach

Mid-Life Founders Aren’t the Exception, They’re the Rule

Entrepreneur LogoThe following story was a guest column by Kauffman Fellows CEO Jeff Harbach in Entrepreneur.

The average age of a successful entrepreneur is 39

Despite the popular perception of entrepreneurs as hoodie-wearing 20-somethings, mid-life founders are far more common, and more successful, than many people realize.

In fact, according to research out of the Kauffman Foundation, the average age of a successful entrepreneur today is 39 years old, with at least six to 10 years of industry experience. And there are twice as many successful founders over 50 than there are under 25.

This should not be surprising. Innovation is hard. Leadership and corporate growth take skills and experiences that many young CEOs simply don’t have yet. True, a 25-year-old founder is going to be more plugged into the wants and needs of customers in her age range, but the fact is not every technology customer today is under 30, and many entrepreneurs are now working on products intended for vastly different audiences than their counterparts were just a few years ago.

Author Rob Kornblum knows this firsthand. Over the last 20-plus years, he has founded, grown and operated a number of high-growth startups in the software and media industries, and this experience informed his 2016 book, Never Too Late to Startup: How Mid-Life Entrepreneurs Create Wealth, Freedom, & Purpose. Older entrepreneurs bring a number of different advantages to bear, he argues, and the sooner the tech industry realizes that the better off, and more successful, we’re all going to be.


Jeff HarbachJeff Harbach (Class 16) is President and CEO of Kauffman Fellows. Jeff has been an entrepreneur and investor since 2002, and was Executive Director of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN), based out of Austin, TX, from 2011–2013, where he served his fellowship. He has led multiple startups, including two 7-Eleven stores, a luxury furniture store and interior design firm, and a private country club golf network. He was also an angel investor himself with the Vegas Valley Angels. Jeff holds a BS from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Texas, Austin. jharbach@kfp.org