Forget the myth that it’s the young and tech savvy leading the way with new businesses, almost 35% of all new businesses in Australia are led by entrepreneurs in their senior years.
Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology and Queensland University of Technology interviewed more than 400 people aged over 50 and found they were the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs of all new firms in Australia.
According to the study, which was published in the International Journal of Organisational Innovation in September, the average age of such “seniorpreneurs” is 57 and more than a third of them are likely to have started multiple business ventures.
They are also much more likely to be big investors in their startups, with the research finding this group of entrepreneurs invest on average about $1.2 million more than their younger counterparts.
But the study also found this age group face significant barriers, including ageism, declining health and financial disincentives.
The study also looked at senior entrepreneurship across the world and in in particular the US, where nearly a quarter of new ventures started in 2013 were founded by those aged between 55 to 64.
Comparatively, the researchers found Australia lacks entrepreneurship polices and initiatives in the 50-plus market, finding that governments tend to focus on younger entrepreneurs.
One of the authors of the report, Dr Rosemary Fisher of Swinburne University, told SmartCompany this morning the research busts the myth of the “young, energetic” entrepreneur.
“People do assume entrepreneurship is only a young person’s game,” she says.
But Fisher says it’s a narrative that has to change.
“Older people are not ‘beyond it’,” she says.
“Evidence suggests older workers are very good at being entrepreneurs and come with very well-honed skills.”
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Fisher says older entrepreneurs are better at learning how to manage themselves and others, are generally reasonably asset-based, and have good networks to tap into for advice and support.
“Senior entrepreneurs in their 50 plus are generally well-placed to do it,” she says.
“What we’re saying is don’t ignore this group of people.”
Fisher says Australian Bureau of Statistics data has shown the population of Australians over 60 plus will double by 2040.
“A lot of people are actively ageing and contributing to the workforce into their later years,” she says.
“So we’re saying we live in a world now were people in their 50s 60s are still young, fit health compared to previous generations. Today someone retiring in their 50s can reasonably expect to live into their 80s.”
Fisher says senior entrepreneurship is flourishing around the world but the research represents the first empirical report on the phenomena in Australia.
She says government support is an important aspect of senior entrepreneurs continuing to pursue their startup dreams.
“The PM needs to come on board with this,” she says.
“If we can create an environment to support senior entrepreneurs … then Australia will be better off because less will be needing to draw on pensions, it will help people stay fit and happier into mature years.”
Fisher says the research also uncovered tips for those considering entrepreneurship in their later years.
“Be true to yourself, be willing and able to be self-employed,” she says.
“You can pick up skills and knowledge to run your own business and grow it.”