Who are today’s ambitious startup entrepreneurs? That answer is different than it was 20 years ago. Most startup entrepreneurs are still white and male, but the demographics of founders are becoming much more diverse in terms of age and race.
According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, in the Kauffman Index that tracks entrepreneurial trends in the U.S., new entrepreneurs are split almost evenly across age groups, but older adults have become the fastest growing segment.
Believe it or not, the percentage of college students and young 20-somethings starting businesses has been decreasing for years. Surprised? Although the myth, reinforced by media coverage, is of young college students working in a garage or dorm and coming up with the newest technologies that become the next Apple, Microsoft, Uber, or Facebook, most entrepreneurs defy that stereotype.
In 1996, 34% of entrepreneurs were 20-34 years old. By 2015, it was 25%. Look who’s taking up the slack – Baby Boomers and Generation X! Gen X is the demographic cohort following the Baby Boomers and preceding the Millennials (typically birth years 1965 to 1980). Startups founded by entrepreneurs 55-64 increased from 15% to 24% over the past 20 years.
A study of 2014 data by the US Small Business Administration found fewer than 4 percent of 30-year-olds reported they were in full-time self-employment — a proxy for entrepreneurship — compared with 5.4 per cent of Gen Xers, and 6.7 per cent of Baby Boomers at the same age.
Although you may find that hard to believe, it’s no surprise at the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is home to dozens of entrepreneurs and some of the most dedicated are Baby Boomers and Gen Xers pursuing their encore careers.
Alina Szmant, PhD, co-founder of CISME, is a retired UNCW professor of marine biology. Alina is pursuing the commercialization of an instrument that allows diving scientists to measure coral health indicators without damaging corals. CISME Instrument has been sold to scientists in several countries and is likely to be marketed worldwide by a marine equipment distributor. CISME was one of 40 finalists in the 2019 Fish 2.0 Competition selected to meet investors at the global summit.
Bruce Rice, CEO, of QuoteQuest brings years of experience in construction and purchasing to bear on his new business concept to facilitate the buying and selling of construction-related supplies. QuoteQuest is a platform that simplifies the purchasing process and gives buyers access to a national array of suppliers. It also feeds suppliers more RFQs for exactly the parts and materials they provide. Bruce is working with a CIE mentoring team that is helping him reach critical milestones in funding and launching his venture.
Scott Shane, author of The Illusions of Entrepreneurship, and leading expert in data analysis of entrepreneurial activity, points to the importance of experience. According to Shane, “The data shows that work experience increases a person’s chances of starting his own business.” Startup entrepreneurs typically have 10 or more years of experience in their field. Having knowledge of the industry and a deep network of contacts increases an entrepreneurs chances of success.
Is entrepreneurship the next chapter in your career? Stop by the CIE to explore the possibilities and learn about the services and support we can provide.
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.
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