At the same time, this is also the
decade of “super-ageing”, with
Germany, France, the UK, US, Hong
Kong and many other global nations
numbering one-fifth of their population
over the age of 65.
The golden years have been
replaced by active ageing, meaning
entrepreneurship is more likely to be
on the agenda for those in their 50s,
60s and 70s. The 2015 Kauffmann
Index estimated one quarter of all
start-ups in America were headed
by entrepreneurs aged between 55
and 64, up from just 14 per cent in the late
1990s. Meanwhile in the UK, The
Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise
estimates one in six businesses is
started by people over the age of 50.
Those who start in business for the first time in their 50s are attracted to
entrepreneurship by the opportunity to be their own boss and change their lifestyle.
It is therefore unsurprising that they prioritise flexibility, working closer to home and
While often characterised as a glide path to retirement, our research including 65 successful entrepreneurs who started out in their 50s found on average they employ slightly fewer than 100 staff and have a turnover of USD6 million. The majority also have no intention to quit. Indeed, more than one-third say they have yet to achieve their goal of financial independence.
Perhaps more surprising still, one in 10 of them set up in the technology sector. Typically
characterised as a high-growth, high-burn industry, the tech sector is often seen as the
domain of the Millennial generation – especially the start-up scene.
However, at the same time as growing their businesses, our research shows that
entrepreneurs in their 50s and 60s understand the importance of a good work-life
balance. They are comfortable delegating, preferring accountability over direct
responsibility, and recognise the challenges inherent in growing a business – particularly
when the economic environment is uncertain.
Charlie Hoffman, Managing Director of HSBC Private Bank in London, advises leading
entrepreneurs on their wealth management needs. For five years, Mr Hoffman also
co-chaired the judging panel of the UK Private Business Awards, which celebrate
success and achievement across the breadth of private businesses in the UK.
He attributes older entrepreneurs’
different attitudes to: “the experience,
wisdom and the bumps and bruises that
come with age”.
“Older entrepreneurs have broader and
deeper networks, which is important
for doing business but also for raising
finance,” adds Mr Hoffman. “And they
have a greater sense of security so they
can search out the best people for their
team without feeling threatened.”
However, starting out in business for the
first time later in life is still relatively rare.
It is more common for entrepreneurs
who have built their businesses through
their 20s, 30s and 40s to exit their
businesses in their 50s. It is not unusual
for these successful leaders to seek a
second bite of the cherry.
“They are normally highly driven
individuals. Many want to stay busy
and active, but they also want their
freedom,” says Mr. Hoffman.
Success has afforded these
entrepreneurs the luxury of time and the
ability to choose how they continue their
A few go on to start a second operating
company, but many more become angel
investors or take board positions to stay
actively involved in business.
Indeed, it seems regardless of whether
entrepreneurs are starting out for the
first time later in life, or staying active
in business after an exit, the same
Entrepreneurs in their 50s and 60s
want to remain active and engaged, but
above all they want to set their course
in a way that allows them to enjoy the
experience of business leadership.
Far from being the glide path to
retirement, older entrepreneurs are
re-charting their path to personal
fulfilment and sustained success.