In a world that seems rife with barely legal-aged millionaire founders, it’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind. If you haven’t experienced success by the time you’re 30, or even 40, should you resign yourself to your fate?

Despite the impression left by entrepreneurial prodigies–that success is meant to happen early on–analysis of the top 100 founders on the Forbes list shows that most top companies are founded by those in midlife.

Min Kao, the founder of Garmin, and Intel’s Gordon Moore each started their wildly successful companies in their late 30s. Henry Ford didn’t get his start until he was 40; the same goes for Jeffrey Brotman, founder of Costco.

In fact, research by Funders and Founders shows that 35 is the most common age to start one of the top companies in the world.

Sure, you have your young entrepreneurial superstars like Michael Dell, who was just 18 when he founded his namesake brand. And we can’t really talk about teen prodigy founders without a nod to Mark Zuckerberg, creator of the most popular social network on the planet.

Some experience massive success in their 20s, like the founders of Google, FedEx, Whole Foods, or Cisco. This is the period people have started to refer to as the “quarter-life crisis”–it’s a tumultuous time of great change.

With that change comes discomfort and, yes, feelings of inadequacy if you haven’t yet hit your stride. But these periods of great change can contribute to massive personal and professional growth. The times we refer to as our quarter-life crisis and, to a greater extent, our midlife crisis can drive major life achievements.

In this analysis of the world’s top founders, we see a bell curve at both the quarter-life and midlife stages. This is where the best startup ideas seem to come to life, and where entrepreneurs are most likely to experience success.

Check out this infographic that visualizes the relationship between age and success, then visit the full interactive version to see which of the world’s top 100 founders launched their startup in each age group.

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Published on: Jan 15, 2015
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