- Despite the numerous stories of “whizkid” entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg who start companies in their dorm rooms, research suggests founders over 40-years-old run more successful companies.
- Business Insider rounded up many successful people who did not get recognition until well after their 30th birthday.
- Legendary comic book creator Stan Lee, for instance, did not create “Fantastic Four” until he was just shy of 39. Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates made business lore for creating their multi-million dollar companies in their teens – but data suggests they are anomolies to the norm.
In fact, the average age of business founders hovers around 40, according to research conducted by MIT professor Pierre Azoulay, who analyzed 2.7 million people who founded companies between 2007 and 2014. Azoulay found a founder at age 50 is approximately twice as likely to experience a “successful exit,” meaning they get acquired or go public, compared to a founder at age 30, the research finds.
Business Insider rounded up 23 famous people who didn’t achieve success until well past their 30th birthday.
Renowned fashion designer Vera Wang didn’t design her first dress until she was 40. Henry Ford was 45 when he created the revolutionary Model T car in 1908. Writer Harry Bernstein authored countless rejected books before getting his first hit at age 96.
Here are other successful people who found success later in life.
Stan Lee created his first hit comic, "The Fantastic Four," just shy of his 39th birthday in 1961. In the next few years, he created the legendary Marvel Universe, whose characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men became American cultural icons.
Lee passed away in late 2018 at 95-years-old.
Read more: Stan Lee, Marvel legend, dead at 95
Donald Fisher was 40 and had no experience in retail when he and his wife, Doris, opened the first Gap store in San Francisco in 1969. The Gap's clothes quickly became fashionable, and today the company is one of the world's largest clothing chains.
Read more: Jeff Bezos, Julia Child, and 17 more highly successful people who changed careers after age 30
Vera Wang was a figure skater and journalist before entering the fashion industry at age 40. Today she's one of the world's premier women's designers.
Read more: Vera Wang returns, with hippie hair and couture lingerie
Gary Heavin was 40 when he opened the first Curves fitness center in 1992, which ended up becoming one of the fastest-growing franchises of the '90s.
Read more: The 10 Most Brilliant Franchise Founders We're Eternally Grateful For
Robin Chase cofounded Zipcar at age 42 in 2000. She left the company in 2011 and continues to build and advise startups, as well as serve as a member of the World Economic Forum.
Read more: Zipcar Founder Says The Future Of Self-Owned Driverless Cars 'Is A Nightmare'
Samuel L. Jackson has been a Hollywood staple for years now, but he'd had only bit parts before landing an award-winning role at age 43 in Spike Lee's film "Jungle Fever" in 1991.
Read more: 15 famous people who had a stutter
Sam Walton had a fairly successful retail-management career in his 20s and 30s, but his path to astronomical success began at age 44, when he founded the first Wal-Mart in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962.
Read more: How the Waltons - America's wealthiest family and heirs to the Walmart empire - live their lives
Henry Ford was 45 when he created the revolutionary Model T car in 1908.
Read more: Henry Ford built 'Fordlandia,' a utopian city inside Brazil's Amazon rainforest that's now abandoned - take a look around
Jack Weil was 45 when he founded what became the most popular cowboy-wear brand, Rockmount Ranch Wear. He remained its CEO until he died at the ripe old age of 107 in 2008.
Read more: 10 CEOs who didn't find success until later in life
Rodney Dangerfield is remembered as a legendary comedian, but he didn't catch a break until he made a hit appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" at age 46.
Read more: The most famous comedian the year you were born
Momofuku Ando cemented his spot in junk-food history when he invented instant ramen at age 48 in 1958.
Read more: You can customize your own instant noodles at this ramen museum in Japan
Julia Child worked in advertising and media before writing her first cookbook when she was 50, launching her career as a celebrity chef in 1961.
Read more: These vintage photos of Julia Child in the kitchen will inspire you to cook
Jack Cover worked as a scientist for institutions including NASA and IBM before he became a successful entrepreneur at 50 for inventing the Taser stun gun in 1970.
Read more: Taser, Xerox, Popsicle, and 31 more brands-turned-household names
Betty White is one of the most award-winning comedic actresses in history, but she didn't become an icon until she joined the cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in 1973 at age 51.
Read more: 15 things you didn't know about Betty White
Tim and Nina Zagat were both 51-year-old lawyers when they published their first collection of restaurant reviews under the Zagat name in 1979. It eventually became a mark of culinary authority.
Read more: These are the best restaurants in New York City, according to Zagat
Taikichiro Mori was an academic who became a real-estate investor at age 51 when he founded Mori Building Company. His brilliant investments made him the richest man in the world in 1992, when he had a net worth of $13 billion.
Read more: 19 highly successful people who prove it's never too late to change careers
Ray Kroc spent his career as a milkshake-device salesman before buying McDonald's at age 52 in 1954. He grew it into the world's biggest fast-food franchise.
Read more: How the legendary founder of McDonald's created his own luck
Wally Blume had a long career in the dairy business before starting his own ice cream company, Denali Flavors, at age 57 in 1995. The company reported revenue of $80 million in 2009.
Read more: 10 CEOs who didn't find success until later in life
Laura Ingalls Wilder spent her later years writing semi-autobiographical stories using her educated daughter, Rose, as an editor. She published the first in the "Little House" books at age 65 in 1932. They soon became children's literary classics and the basis for the TV show "Little House on the Prairie."
Read more: A New Book Reveals What 'Little House' Author Laura Ingalls Wilder's Life Was Really Like
Harland Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, was 62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1952. He sold the franchise business for $2 million 12 years later.
Read more: KFC is bringing Colonel Sanders back from the dead in a series of unsettling ads
Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, began her prolific painting career at 78. In 2006, one of her paintings sold for $1.2 million.
Read more: 19 highly successful people who changed careers after age 30
Harry Bernstein spent a long life writing in obscurity but finally achieved fame at age 96 for his 2007 memoir, "The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers."
Read more: Not everyone will support you, and 9 other truths you must accept to be successful
Arianna Huffington founded her namesake news publication, The Huffington Post, at age 55. While she worked as a political commentator and writer for her early career, the success of her digital media publication made her a household name. HuffPost later sold to AOL for $315 million.
Read more: FINALLY: We Know How Much Money Arianna REALLY Made From The $315 Million Sale Of Huffington Post