Study: Entrepreneurs Over 50-Years-Old Struggle With Innovation
BY Adam Vaccaro
Startups helmed by owners over the age of 50 are at an innovation disadvantage, a global study finds.
It might sound like a stereotype, but new data shows it to be true: Older entrepreneurs struggle to do cool, new stuff.
That's the finding from France's NEOMA Business School, which studied nearly 70,000 entrepreneurs from more than 60 countries over a seven-year period.
The study's results mirrored the stereotype, showing that startup owners over the age of 50 were 5 percent less likely to innovate compared to younger entrepreneurs. Among entrepreneurs aged 30 or younger, 44.9 percent offered "new products" or "new technologies," the grounds on which the study judged innovation. Among those over the age of 50, that number dipped to 39.6 percent.
And older entrepreneurs were also shown to make less use of new technology compared to their younger counterparts. While 8.4 percent of young entrepreneurs' companies relied on technology, that only held true for 5.4 percent of older entrepreneurs.
Understanding the Gap
While differences of 5 and 3 percentage points might not seem that large, with a data set of this size, that's a pretty wide gap between older and younger entrepreneurs. The researchers suggest the innovation lag has behavioral roots.
"This can be explained by the fact that the mindset and routines, that install with age, influence negatively the creation of an innovative company, the reluctance to adopt new technologies in older individuals or by the fact that the propensity to innovate decreases with the ageing process," NEOMA professor Ana Colovic said in a statement.
The researchers suggest government solutions to this sort of gap, including programs that would help to train older entrepreneurs to understand newer business trends and lend support their way when needed.
Alternatively, entrepreneurs might feel compelled to partner up with a younger mentor at their startups.
But this is the kind of research that can be prescriptive simply by coming to light. For instance, consider the notorious claims of ageism in the startup community. The data shows that maybe, maybe, there's some justification for it. Knowing that to be true, older entrepreneurs might be compelled to change the lagging habits the study shows to be true.