Age is just a number, right? Whilst it’s true that the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs span a wide range of age groups, our founder data indicates that certain age demographics are far more likely to have launched a high-growth business in the UK than others. We’ve analysed the age distribution of entrepreneurs at the time of founding, and broken the data down by region, to see how this differs across the UK.
How old are UK founders? And how does this vary by region?
- The average age of high-growth UK founders at incorporation is 36
- Over 90% of founders in London are within the 20-49 age bracket at incorporation
- The Midlands has the largest proportion of founders aged 60+ at incorporation (3.4%)
- Northern Ireland has the largest proportion of teenage founders at incorporation (2%)
The average age of high-growth UK founders at incorporation is 36
Somewhat debunking the myth of the teenage/twenty-something entrepreneur, across all UK regions, the modal age bracket for high-growth founders at incorporation is actually 30-39. Regionally, this proportion varies from a high of 39.5% in London, to a low of 35.1% in the Midlands. The average age across the UK is 36 years old (34 for unicorn founders). So, despite a rise in millennial entrepreneurs and student founders, it’s more seasoned leadership teams that are hitting our high-growth triggers most frequently.
For almost all UK regions, 20-29 is the next most common age bracket at incorporation, followed by 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, <20, 70-79, and finally 80-89. In the South of England and Scotland, however, there are a greater number of founders aged 40-49 at incorporation than 20-29. These two regions are hotspots for academic spinouts (6.2% of high-growth companies in Scotland and 4.4% in the South, versus the 3.3% UK average) which may explain this trend. Spinout companies are often built upon years of research—the average founder is thus older at incorporation for spinouts (40) than non-spinouts (36).
Over 90% of founders in London are within the 20-49 age bracket at incorporation
Whilst London has the smallest proportion of teen founders, with just 0.8% aged under 20 at incorporation, it also has the smallest proportion of founders in the oldest age brackets. Fewer than 9% of high-growth London founders were over 50 at incorporation, compared to the UK average of 11.5%, and just 7.1% aged 50-59 specifically, versus 9.3% across the UK.
The fact that over 90% of founders in London are within the 20-49 age bracket at company incorporation date is unsurprising given the region’s comparatively young population. And besides the most common age bracket for founders (30-39), the only other regional age bracket to exceed 30% is 20-29 in London—perhaps a reflection of the large swathes of graduates that flock to the city in search of work after university, including budding entrepreneurs looking to build out their networks in the UK’s tech capital.
The Midlands has the largest proportion of founders aged 60+ at incorporation
In the Midlands, the proportion of founders aged 60 or over at company incorporation date is 3.4%. This is considerably higher than the UK average of 2.2%. It’s also two times the proportion of 60+ founders found in London (1.7%), and almost three times the proportion in Northern Ireland (1.2%).
Nonetheless, this is still just a small subset of the region’s high-growth population. The Midlands is currently home to 61 high-growth companies known to have been founded by entrepreneurs aged 60 or over—these are primarily seed-stage startups (47.5%) operating in the technology and IP-based industries (also 47.5%).
Northern Ireland has the largest proportion of teenage founders at incorporation
Across the UK, there are just 278 high-growth founders aged under 20 at company incorporation date (1.0%). But in Northern Ireland, this proportion is almost double (2.0%) and far greater than in any other region. Northern Ireland is also the only region to have a greater proportion of founders under 20 than over 60 (1.2%). But these founders still make up a very small chunk of Northern Ireland’s high-growth population.
Whilst it would be tempting to suggest, based on the headline alone, that Northern Ireland is bursting with next gen Mark Zuckerbergs, it’s important to note that it has far fewer ambitious businesses than other UK regions, and thus the data may be skewed by just a handful of successful teen founders. In fact, Northern Ireland currently has just 10 high-growth founders that were under 20 years old at incorporation (out of a total 496).
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