If asked to describe the typical entrepreneur, most people would probably describe someone who is innovative, creative, not afraid to take risks, and—above all—young. But while it’s true that many of the startup luminaries currently peopling Silicon Valley are young, it would be a mistake to assume that this model accurately reflects entrepreneurship overall. In fact, older entrepreneurs are more than holding their own. Research from the Kauffman Foundation shows that in 2011, individuals over the age of 45 were responsible for 49 percent of all new entrepreneurial activity, and the biggest increase in the rate of entrepreneurial activity was observed in the 45-to-54-year-old age group.
So what do older entrepreneurs have to offer that younger ones typically don’t? One of the most important answers to this question is simple: experience. Older entrepreneurs have simply been in the game longer, have had more chances to observe what does (and doesn’t) make a business successful, and have quite often learned a lot from their own mistakes. That kind of insight is as valuable as ideas or capital when it comes to launching a new enterprise. In addition, due to having seen more businesses come and go, older entrepreneurs usually have a better sense of whether or not the market is ready for their idea. Finally, thanks to years of building networks of family and friends, older entrepreneurs often have more and better-established social resources to draw upon for emotional support during the tough challenges of creating and maintaining a company.