Making It Big After 40

Last Updated Sep 18, 2008 12:27 PM EDT

Athletes fade with age, but businesspeople are supposed to get better with experience. But I'm having trouble thinking of big-name entrepreneurs who didn't start their first company until they were over 40.

A friend in Silicon Valley told me that rumors are rampant that Google won't hire anyone over 40. That's just fear talking in a place where lots of companies are laying off people -- if you can pass Google's famous tests, why would it care how old you are?
That said, I have heard Mike Moritz, one of Google's VCs, say that he doesn't like to fund ideas ginned up by people over 25. And the Valley does have a kind of "never fund anyone over 30" credo. It likes young entrepreneurs, and at a certain point brings in adult supervision (like Eric Schmidt at Google).

So the Valley would have passed on Ford Motor, founded by Henry Ford a month before his 40th birthday. Sure, Ford has trouble now, but let's see what Google looks like when it's 105. Then again, Ford doesn't fit my over-40 criteria (and he started his first car company at 36).

After poking around for a day or so, I remembered Bill Gore, who started Gore-Tex maker W.L. Gore when he was 45.

Give me some more examples of entrepreneurs who started after 40 and succeeded. Let's inspire the 40-somethings in Silicon Valley and everywhere else (including yours truly)!

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.