Troubled teenagers equal entrepreneurial success

Research looks at the ingredients that make a good entrepreneur

What makes for a successful entrepreneur? Unsurprisingly traits such as a high IQ, more education and having high self-confidence and self-esteem all contribute, but academics Ross Levine and Yona Rubinstein have identified another aspect, juvenile delinquency.

The authors were interested to discover more about entrepreneurship in their paper “Does Entrepreneurship Pay? The Michael Bloombergs, the Hot Dog Vendors and the Returns to Self-Employment.”

Part of their research examined distinguishing characteristics of entrepreneurs – what was it that defined a successful entrepreneur and were these traits identifiable from an early age? The pair defined an entrepreneur as an individual who had undertaken a novel or risk-taking activity, such as Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg, rather than adhering to previous definitions as someone who is self-employed such as a plumber.

They discovered that engaging in “aggressive, illicit and risky activities” as a teenager were traits “positively associated with being a highly successful incorporated business owner later in life”.

“Our data revealed that many successful entrepreneurs exhibited aggressive behaviour and got in trouble as teenagers,” say Prof Levine of the Haas Economic Analysis and Policy Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

“This is the person who wasn’t afraid to break the rules, take things by force or even be involved in minor drugs.”

Furthermore, Prof Levine and Prof Rubinstein of the London School of Economics and Political Science have found that entrepreneurs earn on average 50 per cent more than their salaried peers who are working in the same industry and have similar levels of education. Their findings contradict previous research that stated entrepreneurship does not pay.

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