Week of 24 August 2020
The world prizes early success in life. This mindset is perpetuated when we hear the stories of the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who both founded their empires in their twenties. But research shows that they aren’t the norm. Let’s take a Deep Dive.

🌱 Let’s acknowledge this now: as a society, we’re obsessed with celebrating the success of young people. Descriptors such as "prodigy" and "whiz kid" are commonplace in the media—Gen.T included.

📰 Ageism—or discrimination against individuals on the basis of their age—is an issue in many industries, but the tech world is probably one of its biggest perpetuators. The tech startup scene, in particular, favours hiring younger talents, with one big-name venture capitalist openly admitting it.  

💪 Despite all this, recent data suggests that older business owners, particularly those above 40 years old, are more likely to succeed than their younger counterparts. According to experts, having more years of specific industry experience and greater financial security gives them an edge, even if they are less creative or tech-savvy.

🚀 Others argue that there isn’t a perfect age to start a business. Instead, your chance of succeeding is shaped by your readiness to keep at it until you make a breakthrough. And if your first idea doesn’t work, there’s no age limit on how long you can keep searching for something that will. 


“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Mark Twain, writer and entrepreneur




29 A 2015 report by HSBC Private Bank found that the average Asian will set up his or her first business at age 29.

45 Research shows that the average age of a successful startup founder today is 45 years old.

85% Founders with at least three years of relevant work experience are 85 percent more likely to launch a successful startup than founders with no such experience. 

According to research, a 50-year-old founder is approximately twice as likely to experience a successful exit than a 30-year-old founder.


Paul Graham, the co-founder of American startup accelerator and seed capital firm Y Combinator, once said that investors have a cut-off age in mind before they become sceptical of a startup founder’s ability to succeed. What age was this?

A. 32
B. 39
C. 44

Scroll to the bottom of the email for the answer.


Some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs may have founded their companies at a young age, but they saw their biggest successes at a later age. One example is Steve Jobs, who started Apple at 21 years old, but launched his most iconic and revenue-generating product, the iPhone, when he was 52.  


5 Stories To Get You Up To Speed
  1. When It Comes to Success, Age Really Is Just a Number
    The New York Times

  2. What Can We Learn From People Who Succeed Later In Life?
  3. How The Cult Of Early Success Is Bad For Young People
  4. Why Late Bloomers Are Happier And More Successful
  5. Who Are The Most Successful Entrepreneurs? The Middle-Aged


How To Avoid Ageism

In this scene from US sitcom TV series The Office, Steve Carrell’s character Michael Scott and his colleagues search for possible reasons why society “hates old people so much” and what we can do to stop this discriminatory behaviour


Based on the graph below, the likelihood of startup founders experiencing extreme business success increases with age, until they hit their late 50s.  

Harvard Business Review


The Inventor
Momofuku Ando
In 1958, a 48-year-old Momofuku Ando created the world’s first instant noodle, a chicken-flavoured ramen. Thirteen years later, the Taiwanese-Japanese entrepreneur, who founded Nissin Foods Group, unveiled his next big invention—the Cup Noodles range, taking Japanese instant noodles global. 

The Programmer
Masako Wakamiya
Japanese computer programmer Masako Wakamiya made headlines in 2017 when she launched her first app at the age of 81. This earned her the title of the world’s oldest iPhone app developer and a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook two years later. 

The Designer
Vera Wang
Before venturing into fashion for the first time at age 40, American designer Vera Wang was a figure skater, dancer and editor at Vogue. Since opening her flagship bridal salon in New York in 1990, she has dressed many famous women, including Michelle Obama, Victoria Beckham and Chelsea Clinton. 



Did you miss our Deep Dive on Productivity During A Pandemic? Read it here


Breeding Successful Liars
The media’s obsession with early success and the startup world’s youth-obsessed culture have together led some founders to feel pressured to lie about their age. 

Two entrepreneurs who are guilty of this include Jessica Richman, the founder of bankrupt biotechnology startup uBiome, and Shannon Spanhake, who started troubled US-based parenting app Cleo


Asia’s Booming Sex Wellness Industry

That's it for this issue. Have a productive week!

The Deep Dive is a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that’s shaping Asia’s future. This issue was written by Chong Seow Wei, with editing and production by Samantha Topp and Lee Williamson.

We’d love to know what you think of this issue, and future topics you’d like us to cover. Please send your comments to And if you missed it, don’t forget to check out last week’s Deep Dive, on Productivity During A Pandemic.

The answer to the quiz is A (32).

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