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Clive Thompson: Why Veteran Visionaries Will Save the World

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Clive Thompson: Why Veteran Visionaries Will Save the World
Don't trust anyone over 30. That's the prevailing wisdom in Silicon Valley, a land once again bestrode by millionaire CEOs who just learned to shave. Many people believe that the breakthrough ideas come only from the young. And why not? Media stories constantly recite the ages of a few famous founders: Bill Gates of Microsoft, 20; Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, 20; the Google boys, 25; YouTube's Chad Hurley, 28. Tumblr founder David Karp is 21 — and on his second successful company. Young people rule tech innovation, we tell ourselves, because they have several key advantages. They're fearless and naive, so they'll try anything. They can spy markets that elders, with their locked-in views, cannot. And without dependents or spouses, twentysomethings can work the sort of pyramid-building hours necessary for a startup. It's a kind of Logan's Run world: If you're ending a third decade, you're obsolete. But hold on. A recent study has finally collected some data on age and high tech innovation and found that older geeks are just as successful as young Turks. What's more, the chronologically advanced are especially successful at solving problems we increasingly — and desperately — need solved.In other words, the high tech future may belong to the over-30 set. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation surveyed 652 US-born CEOs and heads of product development who founded high tech firms in the boom (and bust) years of 1995 to 2005. Both the average and median...

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