It’s not a myth, but I think the reasons for it are confusing.

Yes, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Aaron Levie of Box, etc. dropped out of college, and Dylan Field of Figma and many others never went due to Thiel Fellowships. But as Marc Andreessen points out … they’d been “coding” at an elite level for years, since their teens. By the time they got to college, they were ready. They had 6–7 years of experience and could ship consumer (Zuck) or commercial (Gates) software.

So … if we go back to Aileen Lee’s original Unicorn report … the average age of a founder at founding of start-ups worth $1b or more is 34.  And in SaaS, we found that the average age at IPO is 43:

Yes, sometimes, in software, you can get those 5,6,7 years of experience starting at 13.  Dylan Field was already known as the top intern ever at Flipboard when he worked there.  But less so in enterprise software.  So it’s really probably easier if you start in freemium, SMB, consumer, or developer tools.

Often, in enterprise software, you probably don’t get on-point experience until your twenties or later. It’s hard to learn how, say, the procurement industry works until you’ve had a job in it. You can’t learn this in your parents’ basement.

So … it would make sense 34 is a decent average starting point, especially in B2B that sells to bigger customers. And these folks don’t really drop out of college at 34. Yes, Aaron Levie of Box dropped out. But they started as a consumer/SMB play, it wasn’t enterprise yet, and they’d been building and working on software for years.

(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer


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