Education and Tech Entrepreneurship
16 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008 Last revised: 29 Sep 2013
Date Written: May 1, 2008
The popular image of American tech entrepreneurs is that they come from elite universities: Some graduate and start companies in their garages; others drop out of college to start their business careers. The dot-com boom reinforced the image of technology CEOs being young and brash. But, even though Bill Gates and Steve Jobs founded two of the world's most successful companies, they are not representative of technology and engineering company founders. Indeed, a larger proportion of tech founders are middle-aged, well-educated in business or technical disciplines, with degrees from a wide assortment of schools. Twice as many U.S.-born tech entrepreneurs start ventures in their fifties as do those in their early twenties, as this paper will show.
We surveyed 652 U.S.-born chief executive officers and heads of product development in 502 engineering and technology companies established from 1995 through 2005. These companies, identified from an existing dataset of corporate records in Dun & Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database, have more than $1 million in sales, twenty or more employees, and company branches with fifty or more employees.
We observed that, like immigrant tech founders, U.S.-born engineering and technology company founders tend to be well-educated. There are, however, significant differences in the types of degrees these entrepreneurs obtain and the time they take to start a company after they graduate. They also tend to be more mobile and are much older than is commonly believed.
Keywords: U.S. born, entrepreneur, key founder, high-tech, start-up, education, Ivy League
JEL Classification: H52, I2, N3, 018
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