Infographic: Does success have a deadline? And how late is too late to change your life?

We cover a lot of ‘bright young things’ in Idealog – young entrepreneurs doing dazzling things both here in New Zealand and on the world stage. That’s not surprising. Young people are often energetic, creative and optimistic and besides, that story – the local wunderkind doing great things – just makes for great reading.

But what about the rest of us? Is innovation a young person’s game? Does fortune truly favour the young? Or are late starters just as willing and just as able to take their shot, change their life and maybe make a difference in the world in the process? Simply put, just what is the actual relationship between age and success?

Maybe this infographic offers some answers. Created by Anna and Mark Vital from Funders and Founders this study looked at the biographies of the top 100 founders on the Forbes World’s Biggest Public Companies list to determine if there is, indeed, a critical age for starting a successful venture. (Note: Only ‘self-starters’ were included in the list. Companies that were inherited from previous ones and institutions such as the Agricultural Bank of China – founded by Mao Ze Dong when he was chairman – have been excluded).

The results? It turns out that 35 is the most common age of the founder – at the time of founding – of the top companies in the world. William Procter of Procter & Gamble, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Doris Fisher of Gap, among plenty of others, were all 35 when they started their world-beating companies.

If 35 is either a long way off or a long way gone for you however, don’t get disheartened, because the results reflect a very distinct bell-curve. The age of founders is diverse, including both the 18-year-old Michael Dell (founder of Dell computers) and 61-year-old founder of what would become IBM, Charles Flint (closer to home, Claude Stratford founded Comvita at 63 and at age 95 was a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2005). 

So there you have it. According to the stats it’s never too early – or too late – to be what you might have been.

For the static version of the infographic see below, or for an interactive version click here.