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Indicators of Entrepreneurial Tendencies

Mark Marich

A newly released report by the Kauffman Foundation, Anatomy of an Entrepreneur, reveals that the majority of entrepreneurs had early propensity toward starting companies, judging by their academic performance and socio-economic backgrounds.

For the study, author Vivek Wadwha surveyed 549 entrepreneurs in high-growth industries, including aerospace, defense, computing, electronics and health care. Results contend that most entrepreneurs came from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds, are well-educated and are also married with children:

•    More than 90 percent of the entrepreneurs came from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds.
•    More than 95 percent of those surveyed had earned bachelor’s degrees, and 47 percent had more advanced degrees.
•    Nearly 70 percent of the entrepreneurs ranked among the top 30 percent of their undergraduate classes, and 37 percent ranked their performance among the top 10 percent.

Moreover, more than half of the company founders in the survey had at least some interest in entrepreneurship while in college. Of those who said to have been “extremely interested” during college, 47 percent went on to found more than two companies. However, in general, founders tended to be 40 years old on average when they started their first business.

In terms of personal motivations, entrepreneurs cited “building wealth” as the primary motivation for starting their companies. Other popular motivators included capitalizing on a business idea; the appeal of a startup culture; a desire to own a company; and a lack of interest in working for someone else. For those surveyed, entrepreneurship was not a family tradition; more than half (51.9 percent) were the first in their families to launch a business.

Anatomy of an Entrepreneur is the first of a two-part study that explores entrepreneurs’ motivations and socio-economic, educational and familial backgrounds. The study is part of Kauffman Foundation efforts to understand the circumstances that foster or induce entrepreneurship, so as to gain insights into new measures that will support entrepreneurs.

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