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When it comes to starting a business, does age matter?

Posted by Shivali Anand

October 6, 2021    |     5-minute read (839 words)

"Am I the proper age to start a business?" has been a question we've heard from entrepreneurs of all ages. The answer is simple: There is no such thing as a "right age" to launch a business.

There is tremendous information available about the age ranges of typical entrepreneurs. For example, according to research from MIT and Northwestern University, the average age of founders at high-growth new businesses is 45. On the other hand, we've all heard that Mark Zuckerberg began Facebook out of his dorm room at the age of 19m and that Kentucky Fried Chicken wasn't franchised until Colonel Harland Sanders was 62.

With these figures running the gamut, it's apparent that age is only a number when it comes to starting a successful business.

We've created a rundown depicting the ages of renowned founders, chosen one from each age group to highlight their path to entrepreneurship.

Teenager: Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies

Dell Technologies, one of the most well-known technology companies, grew out of the founder’s dorm rooms. Michael Dell founded Dell Inc., then known as "PCs Limited,” when he was just 19 years old.

Dell had sold roughly $80,000 worth of laptops by the end of his first year at the University of Texas at Austin. After beginning the company with only $1,000 in cash, that profit was enough to convince him to drop out of school and devote his full attention to the company. Only four years later, the firm became public.

20s: Ralph Lauren, founder of the Ralph Lauren Corp.

Ralph Lauren started his career as a sales assistant for Brooks Brothers after serving in the US Army and then went on to work for tie producer Beau Brummell. At 28 years old, Lauren got the notion to start designing his own ties there, which was the beginning of his Polo brand.

He developed his designs to include anything from men's suits to women's outfits, but his early signature was a collared short-sleeved shirt known as the "Polo shirt." Lauren stepped down as CEO in 2015, at the age of 76, after the firm went public in 1997.

30s: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Despite being dubbed a "wunderkind," Jeff Bezos founded Amazon when he was 31 years old. He resigned his position as a senior vice president at New York investment company D.E. Shaw to go "all in" on his concept for an online bookstore, as many entrepreneurs do.

Bezos' online shop, which he started out of his garage, sold its first book in 1995 and used proprietary algorithms to personalize book recommendations and score reviews. Over the next decade, Amazon began to expand its offerings beyond books, and it now has its own film studio. Bezos who is also the founder of Blue Origin, a space travel company, and the owner of the Washington Post.

40s: Walmart's Sam Walton

When Sam Walton established his first Walmart shop at the age of 44, he was already well-known for his career in the U.S. military and the retail sector.

Walton's first Arkansas store, which opened in 1962, was almost immediately a hit, owing to Walton's idea that people would shop in their own areas if they had the choice of finding reasonable prices locally.

Walmart quickly expanded across the country, even while the economy was struggling. The firm went public in 1976, and by 1985, Walton had been declared the wealthiest person in the United States, a title he despised. Walton died in 1992 at age 74.

50s: Coca-John Cola's Pemberton

When John Pemberton originally invented the soft drink that is now known as Coca-Cola, he was 54 years old. The former soldier had survived a saber wound to the chest at the Battle of Columbus and was trying to kick a morphine addiction that had developed due to the agony from his injury. He began experimenting with beverage mixtures to replace the medication, hoping to discover a method to get away from it. When temperance laws were enacted in Atlanta in 1886, he produced a nonalcoholic version of his Coca-Cola drink, which was marketed as a fountain drink for five cents a glass.

Pemberton died just two years later; thus, he never experienced his beverage's tremendous popularity. He sold his company's shares to Asa Candler before he died, who went on to build the soft drink business into a market titan.

60s: IBM's Charles R. Flint

It's difficult to believe that someone born in 1850 could have founded the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, eventually becoming IBM. Sixty-one-year-old founder Charles R. Flint had a long and illustrious career in business, even working with the Wright Brothers to sell their patents and planes worldwide.

The International Time Recording Company, the Computing Scale Company and the Tabulating Machine Company merged in 1911, and Flint managed the transaction.

Three years later, Thomas J. Watson Sr. was named general manager of IBM, and the phrase "Think" was coined. Flint was on the board of directors of International  Business Machines (IBM) from 1924 to 1930.

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