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Fast Forward

You still have time to be the next big thing

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The big business news this week was Facebook paying $19 billion for a company most of us never heard of before — WhatsApp, a mobile messaging platform that lets you text for free

So with the stroke of a pen, another pair of young entrepreneurs joined the ranks of most wealthy individuals on the planet. Photos of them — both in the tech billionaire uniform of jeans and black collarless shirts — tore through social media, across websites and onto broadcast news, and the two principals’ gray hair and receding hairlines weren’t the first things you noticed. But they were evident.

What? Um, yes. WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton are in their late 30s and early 40s, respectively. Acton is even a little jowly.

While it’s true that Bill Gates was 20 when he and Paul Allen (then 22) founded Microsoft, and Steve Jobs was 21 when he and Steve Wozniak (then 26) formed Apple, most successful entrepreneurs are not fresh young things taking the business world by storm.

Instead, according to Duke University professor Vivek Wadhwa, “The typical entrepreneur is … a middle-aged professional who learns about a market need and starts a company with his own savings.”

There are good reasons successful entrepreneurs tend to be older rather than younger. In addition to having more business experience — which can often include the experience of business failure — they usually are more connected, have better personal support systems and have an easier time getting financing.

In fact, over the last decade, entrepreneurs have been getting older.

But we human beings are attracted by novelty, so the outlier twenty-somethings who hit it big get outsized attention.

For the rest of us with a business dream, however, there’s still hope. And time.

The week ahead

While athletes from around the world have been chasing gold at the Winter Olympics, a York County company reached the gold standard for sustainable building and is enjoying the results in its new home. Reporter Joe Deinlein takes us inside in this week’s issue.

Our Inside Business focus anticipates spring, with stories on corporate meetings and company outings. They run the gamut from luxury sports boxes to that charity golf tournament you’ll no doubt be signing up for soon. The lists rank meeting facilities, hotel-based meeting facilities, caterers and golf courses.

Find the week’s networking opportunities here.

The rewind

You see a need, you’ve got the idea to meet that need and make money doing it, and maybe you even have a backer. But it takes more. Do you have the personality to succeed as an entrepreneur? Try this quiz. (All I’ll say about my score is that I’m in the right place, in the right career.)

A couple of months ago I wrote about the harm daylight saving time does to human beings and the economy. There’s a movement in Tennessee to get rid of this old-fashioned habit — though the same tired arguments to keep following the herd will probably shoot it down. Clocks change in just two weeks, by the way.

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