If I tell you to picture a successful entrepreneur – what comes to mind?

Most people think of the outliers, like Zuckerberg or Musk or Jobs, that never experience laziness because they’re the most memorable.

But they’re not what makes up the bulk of successful entrepreneurs – not by a long shot!

With every business-based Hollywood film further distorting our image of entrepreneurship, many people have lost touch…

What is takes to become a successful entrepreneur has never and will never change.

The numbers don’t lie.

Here’s a double-dose of infographic with the facts on what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur – you might be surprised!

The one thing that really jumped out at me was that nearly half of all successful entrepreneurs weren’t even considering that path in college – I wouldn’t have guessed that!

Let me know what jumped out at you in the comments below – or share these bad boys around if you really want to help me out ๐Ÿ˜€

Either way, thanks for reading – hope you learned something valuable!

Additional resources you might enjoy:


Avatar for Will Mitchell
Will Mitchell

Will Mitchell is a serial entrepreneur and Founder of StartupBros. You can learn more about him at the Startupbros about page. If you have any questions or comments for him, just send an email or leave a comment!

66 comments add your comment

  1. Fantastic post.

    Really enjoyed reading it and it held my attention all the way through! Keep it up.

  2. Great info Will, what jumped out at me was the average successful entrepreneur’s age 40. I honestly figured it would be in the low to mid 30s with all the discontent in the workplace now a days.

    I guess the industrial age philosophy is still going strong and it isn’t until most reach the 40 mark that they decides enough is enough and make the plunge.

    But at that age doesn’t the pre-entrepreneur mindset throw a huge mental block to pursue their dreams compared to a younger entrepreneur?

    What are your thoughts on overcoming the industrial age mindset during startup for that age group (40s)?

    You think they may need more than just a little HAPPY POWER to succeed?

  3. You, sir, are awesome. Congrats on conquering your fears. I’m translating this and sharing it on my FB wall.

  4. Love the infographics. Any chance you could post a PDF? We’d like to print a copy for our wall and the artifacts when printing the JPG make the designer in me long for a high-resolution version.
    Thanks so much!

  5. Excellent article! I grew tired of the company I worked for and decided to file for a US Patent. I knew NOTHING about the process – only that I had something that would be used by millions of people. I fought and battled against the USPTO (US Patent agency), proved I invented my idea, was first to invent, and got all the way to appeals. I was rejected twice, but found to have a unique, solely MY invention, but failed to be granted a Patent. However, I DID do it – had to research, take out 2nd mortgage, and I was all in. But, no Patent – yet.

    I discovered something about myself. I was afraid to fail, but afraid to NOT take the risk. Even though I didn’t get an approved Patent, I learned a LOT about myself – and other people. In my eyes, I failed. In the eyes of other people, I was BRAVE. Now, I waffled between “I failed” and “at least I tried!”, and I did get the recognition and I can still refile and try again – when ready.

    So, even though I didn’t get Patent approval, all my family and friends (and some others) see it as something THEY would be afraid to do. In that regard? I was successful. Even though I did not get the Patent (the entire process took SEVEN YEARS), I learned that failure is only a step that is necessary to see that nothing bad happens. So, I now see my attempt as a valuable lesson. I will probably refile with a different IP Attorney and will get a different Examiner. With the fear gone, I might even get the Patent next time. To be able to say “I tried and failed” is much better than to die, and have to say “I regret NOT trying” in something I believed in – now, I believe in myself. That, alone, was worth all the time, money, hope, and sleepless nights and it showed the world, really, that I believed in my idea enough to take action. No shame at all in trying – at least some headway was made and no amount of money can buy what I learned from this attempt. The process did provide me the opportunity (and paperwork) for another attempt as I removed the roadblocks of “proof” of invention, and this will allow me another try. Thanks for the very, very true words. To fail does NOT mean YOU are a failure – it only means that you are not afraid to fail !!

  6. Hi – Thank for your post. I’m just wondering where you got the data. If possible, can you share with me the dataset(s)? Thanks – Phillip –

  7. This has got to be the best infographic on starting up that I’ve come across so far. A brilliant gist of every thing a potential business owner should know!

  8. Will,

    Writing from the UK. Came across your site an hour ago and have been glued to it…great content and clarity; thank you. Interesting data on entrepreneurs and good to dispel the myth that you need to be at college, have a Eureka moment about a social media app, then get a valuation in the billions without ever making a profit or generating revenue (dot com anyone)! As an almost 40 year old leaving the corporate world to start a first business the data is reassuring. Well done to those college students, good to see there are many other profiles starting and running their own companies.

    • James,

      Glad to hear you’re joining the revolution! If we can help you out in your path to entrepreneurship, let us know. Check us out at startupssimplified.com. We’re no StartupBros yet, but we’re out here and wanting to help other entrepreneurs just like us make their dreams come true!

  9. This is one of the most interesting compilation I have seen. After being quite appealed by “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, I though one of the biggest factor for people diving into Entrepreneurship is Family upbringing. The fact that 51.9% did it for the first time realy stands out for me. Thanks for great compliation.

  10. Can definitely see myself with the “not wanting to work for others” and “to build weath” part. Of course others too, but those two stood out for me. Entrepreneurship is something we should all strive for. Thanks for the infographic!

  11. This is definitely one of the coolest info-graphics I’ve seen in a long time. Nice work!

  12. Will, congratulations for the work you do here. The number 1 blog for me. Whenever I come here, I get encouraged and motivated. It’s a really positive energy.

    What a phenomenal post! It’s good to see the numbers destroying the liar glamor that exists in the business world.

    A key question for me is motivation. Do you think that motivation is directly proportional to faith in the business idea?

    • Thanks a lot for the kind words Raphael, glad to hear you like the blog so much! Hope I can continue to help motivate people ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think motivation is different for everybody. Some people become motivated when they know an idea will work, while others become charged when the world tells them it won’t. The most important thing to do is observe yourself and your work habits, and try to optimize them to be motivated and hard-working as often as possible!

  13. Hey, Will, did you see the show Shark Tank? People are living in the land of theory — and not reality! Welcome to the REAL world, when it comes to business! It is SO SAD how college professors are teaching students, these days, to think like how they think! It would be good if college professors taught students how to THINK for themselves!

    • You’re right there Steven… Seems like half of the new companies I hear about only serve to distract society more, rather than create any real value.

      Shark Tank is actually one of the better shows out there, because people actually need to have SALES! Most business competitions now-a-days have digressed to ‘Who can build the coolest app’.

      Either way, I wouldn’t hold my breathe on colleges producing the next great batch of entrepreneurs ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Hey, Will, you are one of the SMARTEST guys that has ever made SENSE! Due to your knowledge, I have managed to start working for MYSELF! You are an EXTREMELY smart person, and don’t let anyone tell you different — I am making A LOT of money on EBAY, due to your advice! Thank you, and I hope you have a good weekend!

    • Thanks a ton for the kind words Steven, I really appreciate it! Nothing makes me happier than hearing success stories based on my advice – you should definitely email me so I can feature you on StartupBros!

  15. Nice job on these graphics, Will! I really enjoy your site and I’ve been helped and/or encouraged by several of your posts. At 50, I’m making my second pass at entrepreneurship. There’s not as much energy there as the first time at 35, so I’ve got make up for it with wisdom, experience, guile and a little help from my friends–like Startup Bros!

    • Thanks David, glad you’ve enjoyed the site! If the data above is any indication, entrepreneurs are better aged! ๐Ÿ™‚ At 50, you could be only half way done – run with it!

  16. Hi Will,
    Firstly, I’d like to thank you- I’ve read a few of your articles and found them both inspiring and practical.
    I went self-employed 4 months ago, and have a few ideas on the go: the first one is contract catering for events- I make a specialist cuisine from my home, which is going along ok. The second is importing from China and selling a very small and light non food item, which I buy in for the business anyway. I haven’t started this yet but the product fits all of your criteria, and should keep me afloat in lean times. The third is teaching piano privately, and the fourth, which is really close to my heart, is a social/ educational project, which I’ve been slowly piecing together over the last few years.
    I reckon the plan is sound, but I struggle with personal organisation and attitude: it’s fine when the work is coming in, because I’m clear what has to be done, but in between times, when I need to be marketing, consolidating and doing paperwork, I go to pieces. What can you tell me about the ’emotional instability’ you identify as one of the ‘dampers’ you mention above? Do you have any advice in this area?
    Yours gratefully,

    • No problem Lucy, I’m glad I could help!

      I think all of those ideas have a lot of potential. Especially since you have the mind of an entrepreneur! Many people have taken a simple thing like piano lessons and built multi-million dollar online businesses. Think outside of the box and start small, and I think any one of those ideas will be successful. The only problem you will have is focus – you’ll eventually need to pick one business to work on exclusively…

      Entrepreneurs have to be extremely stable. They are dealing with mass uncertainty and constant stress. You need to be able to take 500 denials and keep charging forward more energized than before. An emotionally unstable person couldn’t handle it.

      Hope this helps!

  17. Hi Will the survey & infographics very interesting ..but does pose a problem ! The collation of entrepreneurs might suggest if we have all the average stats we have more chance of success …
    My own research suggests the opposite ! The individual E just wants to realise HIS/HER dream not thinking of using others as examples ( tho aware of them )
    Its seems the more others are ignored the more successful one might become ..

    Its partly explained by our increased understanding of how unique we all are ‘

    Add more craziness !

    • Great point there Ian, I think an entrepreneur on a mission to prove themselves and their ideas to the world is the most powerful type – regardless of any demographics. If I was a hard believer in stats, I wouldn’t have dropped out of college ๐Ÿ˜€

      Thanks for the comment buddy, hope you’re doing well!

      • Wait, you dropped out of college to become an entrepreneur? Was that scary for you? Confusing?

        Also, according to your article, the average age of most entrepreneurs at the time of their first start-up is 40. Was that survey done on entrepreneurs of all shades or was it simply those in a particular field, say, technology?

  18. Thanks, Will!

    Enjoyed the charts…very informative.

    Entrepreneurs are some of the most wonderful people around.

    To succeed you have to have the imagination to recognize a great idea when you see it, the humility to admit when things need improvement, and the confidence to push ahead and work even when you’re tired.

    • Glad you enjoyed them Rita! It takes a weird mix of personality traits to be an entrepreneur, maybe that’s why people think we’re crazy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Positive comment with nothing to do with this article:
    Subscribing to your website was one of the best subscriptions I have ever made. I love how you sparingly sent your emails and whenever you do, the article that is linked is always very value adding. Thanks start-up bros, I really appreciate your website!

    • Thanks a lot for this comment, is it cool if I print it out and hang it on my wall? ๐Ÿ˜€

      Seriously though, thanks to you and everybody else that touches this site! Every email I send out is nerve-wracking for me, I try my best to provide value when I bother people. So that really means a lot to me!

  20. Nice infographics! I have been working on a few myself, what did you use to create them?

  21. There is some great information here, Will. I think what this infographic really showed is that there is not a one-size-fits-all formula for entrepreneurial success. Good stuff!

  22. Apologies if I missed this in the article, but what’s your definition of “entrepreneur” for this infographic? People who started a business? Americans who started a tech company? People starting Silicon Valley based companies?

    I can believe the bit about not knowing they wanted to be an entrepreneur until college. Although I always had the personality for it, I didn’t have any desire for it until I got my first real job.

    • My bad, I left that out! I took info from a few sources on this one –

      “A team of researchers led by Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University, Raj Aggarwal of the University of Akron, Krisztina Holly of the University of Southern California, and Alex Salkever of Duke University surveyed 549 company founders of successful businesses in high-growth industries, including aerospace, defense, computing, electronics, and health care.”

      And we also pulled data from a similar surveys.

      I was surprised to see that – I definitely can’t imagine putting in 10 or 20 years before making the move. I can see where you didn’t want to be an entrepreneur until your first job though! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Faith in God as a factor of success? I didn’t see that one coming…good show!

    • God blesses us with ideas and knowledge to become successful so that we in turn can bless others, God is Good

    • It always surprises me how common this is in America compared to Europe, but whatever works. If it helps you jump ship, then you can’t deny its an effective element. Same survey in Europe would probably be quite different – with different motivation factors and different survey results.

      • Great point you’ve made here Christos – regardless of our opinion on their opinion, it works for them! I’ve seen another study that showed one of the biggest differences between Billionaires and Multi-Millionaires is their belief that a Divine Force is guiding and helping them to succeed. They truly believe they are doing God’s work, and for better or for worse it works extremely well for them…

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