Contrary to popular belief, the cities with the youngest founders aren't startup capitals like Silicon Valley and New York City.
That honor goes to New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and Philadelphia, the top three U.S. cities respectively with the youngest founders, according to a new study by online lending marketplace LendingTree. The study compared the ages of founders when they started their businesses in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. To compile the report, LendingTree used anonymized data from business owners who've sought funding through its platform. The average age of founders in New Orleans is 37 years old, two years younger than the national average of 39, according to LendingTree. Meanwhile, the average age of founders in Salt Lake City--No. 2 on Inc.'s list of the best places to start a business--is 37.2, and in Philadelphia it's just under 38 years old.
Cities that boast a younger entrepreneurial population typically have lower costs of living, reducing some of the expenses and lessening the risk for budding founders, says LendingTree research analyst Derek Miller. The median rents in New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and Philadelphia are about $2,700 cheaper than that of San Francisco, according to the real estate database Zillow.
"There's always a risk for an entrepreneur," Miller added. "But when the cost of living isn't as high, many young people are willing to take that risk."
What's more, cities with younger founders typically have rich talent pipelines from nearby schools, Miller says. For example, Boston--which ranked No. 10 on LendingTree's list and No. 14 on Inc.'s annual ranking--is home to more than 30 colleges and universities, including prestigious institutions like Harvard, MIT, and Babson College. These schools host entrepreneurship programs, accelerators, and incubators to support their blossoming business owners both in and out of the classroom.
"Older entrepreneurs may have higher returns, but younger founders are willing to try new things," says Miller. "That can lead to breakthroughs and culturally defining businesses."
To be sure, not all of these cities are the most hospitable homes for founders. Philadelphia may be No. 3 on LendingTree's study, but it was ranked one of the worst places to start a business by WalletHub in May 2019. The personal finance website ranked 100 large cities across three dimensions: business environment, access to resources, and business costs. WalletHub evaluated those factors based on 19 metrics, including five-year business-survival rate, startups per capita, and average growth of business revenues. Philadelphia had one of the lowest business environment ranks of the list--94 out of 100--and scored poorly in the business costs category.