“The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur”
to discover who American entrepreneurs are
what makes them tick.
The surveyed 549 successful business founders
from high-growth industries between
August 2008 and March 2009.
Not College Dropouts
Entrepreneurs tend to be highly educated. We found that 95% had
earned bachelor’s degrees and 47% held advanced degrees.
Better Educated Than Their Parents
Their parents weren't nearly as well-educated. Only half the
company founders' fathers and only 34% of the founders' mothers
held bachelor's or advanced degrees.
Ranked at the Top of Their Class in
Seventy-five percent ranked their academic performance among the
top 30% of the high school class, with a majority (about 52%)
ranking their performance among the top 10%.
...But Drank Their Way Through College
They didn't do as well in college, however. Sixty-seven percent
ranked their academic performance among the top 30% of their
undergraduate class, and a smaller percentage (37.5 %) ranked their
performance among the top 10 percent.
Not from Rich Families
Most of the company founders came from middle-class backgrounds
(35% described themselves as upper-middle class and 40% as
lower-middle class). Additionally, 22% said their parents were blue-
collar workers engaged in some form of manual labor.
Less than 1% came from extremely rich or extremely poor
The average company founder was not the eldest child.
Not the Only Child
Company founders tend to come from fairly large families, with an
average of three siblings.
About 70% of company founders indicated they were married when
they launched their first business. An additional 5.2% were divorced,
separated, or widowed.
Nearly 60% of company founders indicated they had at least one
child when they launched their first business, and 43.5% had two or
Entrepreneurship Didn't Always
Run in the Family
Just over half of the respondents were not children of entrepreneurs.
Many Caught the Entrepreneurial Bug Later in Life
While half of the company founders had some interest in becoming
an entrepreneur when they were in college, more than a third didn't
even think about it, and just over 13% had little or no interest. Those
from blue-collar backgrounds were more likely to have been
extremely interested in starting a business.
Most Had Relevant Industry Experience
The majority of company founders (over 75%) had worked as
employees at other companies for more than six years before
launching their own companies. Nearly half launched their first
companies with more than 10 years of work experience.
They Could've Landed Jobs
Founders weighed in on a scale of 1 through 5, with 1 meaning not an
important factor and 5 meaning an extremely important factor.
It wasn't that they couldn't get jobs. Over 80% of company founders said that
inability to find traditional employment was not a factor in starting their own
businesses. Only 4.5% said it was an important factor.
So why did they start companies? Just under 75% said their desire to build
wealth was important; 64% said they have always wanted to own their own
companies; 66% liked the appeal of a startup culture; and 60% said that
working for others did not appeal to them.
Once an Entrepreneur,
Always an Entrepreneur
A majority (over 58%) started more than one company. Eight percent
of the company founders had started more than five companies.