What makes a high-growth start-up successful? If you believe many in the tech industry, it depends on you being a computer software science geek, certainly male, and most importantly – young. The present debate is generally focused on sexism and gender. Even though I believe women face the worst discrimination in tech industry, they are unquestionably not the only group who face this issue.
Recently, a group of economics researchers conducted a wide-ranging study of the starting age of founders of high-growth startups and discovered that successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young. The average age of a startup founder with one employee is about 41.9, and among the top 0.1 per cent of highest-growth startups. That average age is about 45. This study rejects the common stereotyping of youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs, arguing that older founders are more successful because they tend to have more experience.
One glaring example of discrimination can be found in for-profit tech accelerators. Startup founders are attracted to good accelerators to access seasoned entrepreneurs or former entrepreneurs who have “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. However, for-profit accelerators require startup founders to attend three to six-month intensive, in-person residency programs, usually in a cool co-working space in a state capital city. In exchange for a little cash and 10-20 per cent of equity.
This model of accelerator only fits a hedonistic lifestyle of the stereotypical young entrepreneur, but it doesn’t fit if you are a 40-something single mother or father raising a young family, living within the demands of a modern society.
Diversity ought to matter to the tech industry sector because it makes good business sense, not because it is politically correct.