5 Lessons from Age Versus Startup Success in India [Data Driven]

From Forbes to VentureBeat, the West is being inundated with correlations between age and entrepreneurial success, whether worshipping 19-year-old CEOs or picking data to support founders in their 30s and 40s. Thus far, India has been saved any such analysis. Today we're going to bridge some of that gap.

In an analysis of some of the well-known startups and founders in India, we'll dive into 5 key insights on the interplay between age, background, launch date, co-founder(s), and fundraising in one of the East's largest economies.

Lesson #1: The Earlier, The Better

While the launch age bracket ranged from 19 to 48, the median age for launching a business is 27.

80% of the founders launched their startup before hitting 30. Except Pranay Chulet (Quikr) who started up at 34, all the unicorns in India were launched by young entrepreneurs. Potential reasons might include India’s demographic profile (average age: 25), risk-taking ability, alma mater’s support, and/or digital-oriented nature of current startup boom.

Lesson #2: Engineering or MBA by Education

With the exception of Ritesh Agarwal, all the founders were either engineers, MBAs or both.

Only Engineers outdid MBAs in a ratio of 2:1. It is a close fight between IIT Delhi (Flipkart, Snapdeal, Zomato, Quikr) and IIT Bombay (Ola, Housing, TinyOwl) for the top honors.

MBAs tended to start out later with schools like Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, and IIM A/B/C.

50% of the founders launched their business within 3 years of completing their education. Educational institute was also a very likely place for meeting your co-founder.

Lesson #3: IT, Consulting, or Finance by Profession

If founders had professional experience, 3 sectors were in highest demand: IT, Consulting or Finance.

The correlation between Engineering and IT is obvious. Bain & Co. has the highest representation with 2 startups & 3 founders: Zomato and Delhivery.

Last, lot of the founders worked with startups before starting on their own.

Lesson #4: Timing Matters - Launch when Chips are Down

The majority (60%) of the startups were launched during one of the worst global economic periods of late 2007 to 2011, including all the unicorns of India. The data also shows that becoming a unicorn has been a 5-7 year journey until now.

Lesson #5: No Correlation Between Age and Amount Raised

There is no or low statistically significant correlation (-0.2) between founder’s age (launch or current) and amount raised. Not surprisingly, the e-commerce founders have raised the maximum amount per life year. While the current numbers for younger entrepreneurs are impressive, the jury is still out on whether they will be able to sustain their momentum. The troubles at Housing.com and TinyOwl serve as reminders about the perils of mixing young founders and dollops of money.

Source: LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Company websites, and newspaper interviews.

The Bottom Line

These results should be consumed with a pinch of salt. Biases like survivorship, halo, market vagaries, or correlation-causation mixup should be factored in while reading the results.

Entrepreneurial success cannot and should not be generalised. Successful entrepreneurs, by definition, are exceptions. If you have the belief that your idea makes a difference, you should take the plunge irrespective of anecdotal experience. Instead of reading the analysis as younger the better, read it as the right time to startup is now. Today, you are youngest that you will ever be!