Contrary to what you might guess, the highest rate of entrepreneurial growth over the last few years is not Gen-Y upstarts, but Boomers over the age of 50, now called encore entrepreneurs. In fact, according to the latest Index of Startup Activity by the Kauffman Foundation and recent press reports, these Baby Boomers are actually driving a new entrepreneurship boom.
Some people are calling entrepreneurship the ‘new mid-life crisis’ for the 77 million-strong demographic once thought to be over the hill. Partially due to the economy, but also due to longer, healthier lives and changes in job tenure, Boomers are now expected to stay in the labor force longer, and according to a USNews article, will likely dominate the labor market by 2024.
Here are some indicative entrepreneurial facts from recent Kauffman studies and others. These could convince you that the correct icon for an entrepreneur may now have gray hair, rather than the warm glow of youth:
- The percent of entrepreneurs who are Baby Boomer starting a business since 1996 has grown from 14.3 percent to 24.3 percent last year.
- In every one of the last 15 years, Boomers between the ages of 55 and 64 have had a higher rate of entrepreneurial growth than Gen-Y, aged 20–34.
- These trends seem likely to persist. In the Kauffman Foundation Survey of nearly 5,000 companies that began in 2004, nearly two-thirds of the founders are now between the ages of 35 and 54.
- Additionally, Kauffman research has revealed that the average age of the founders of technology companies in the United States is a surprisingly high 39—with twice as many over age 50 as under age 25.
- While people under 30 have historically jumped from job to job, another striking development has been a deep drop in the incidence of ‘lifetime’ jobs among men over age 50.
- With longer life expectancies and greater health in later life, older generations are moving to start new firms—and mentor young entrepreneurs. One new incentive is the falling transaction costs and barriers to entry for entrepreneurs of every age.
- 65 percent of online users aged 50-64 use social media now, and the growth rate continues to increase. Social networking penetration by Boomers has now caught up with the other age groups, reaching about 80% across the board.
- The immigrant rate of entrepreneurial activity seems to be declining each year (now about .5%), but still remains higher than the native-born rate. Business-startup rates in America increased the most in the Midwest and South.
In addition, the Boomer demographic is also creating a slew of new market opportunities, including improved healthcare facilities, construction of senior-friendly facilities, and technical support for seniors, by seniors. What all of this means is that boomers will have more impact and power in the marketplace for a lot longer than most people expected.
Since entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth, this should bode well for America, and for world economic growth as well. In terms of job creation, innovation, and productivity, entrepreneurs drive growth. Many Boomers have the purchasing power and become enthusiastic early adopters who help lead the way. They are becoming the new early adopters.
Of course no one has any idea what the next big thing will be, but more often than not innovation comes from entrepreneurs. If you are one of the Baby Boomers who wants to redefine retirement, now is your chance for real impact. Find an opportunity you understand, follow your passion, and join the entrepreneurial majority.