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When you hear the word startup, chances are images of twenty-somethings hacking away at Macs in a loft office with an open floor plan spring to mind. And for good reason: head to sunny California, home to Silicon Valley and some of the today's prominent internet startups, and you're bound to find that a lot of startups do look something like this.

But that doesn't mean that one should jump to the conclusion that Gen-Y is the generation with the greatest entrepreneurial spirit. According to a new survey released today by Monster.com and Millennial Branding, members of Gen-X and the Baby Boomer generation actually consider themselves to be more entrepreneurial than their younger siblings and children.

Entrepreneurial aspirations were high across the nearly 3,000 workers polled by Monster.com and Millennial Branding, but with 45% of the Baby Boomers considering themselves entrepreneurial, it would appear that those between the ages of 50 and 69 years are perhaps most ambitious when it comes to starting a business or creating an opportunity for self-employment.

Somewhat surprisingly, just 32% of respondents in the 18-29 age group indicated that they were entrepreneurial, well behind Gen-Xers (41%). Gen Y-ers were also far more risk averse than the older groups, with slightly more than a quarter willing to "[identify] with being high risk", compared to 40% and 43% for Gen-X and Baby Boomers, respectively.

The new New Economy

Putting aside the selective bias of the tech blogosphere, which has a tendency to focus on young, consumer internet startups in a handful of geographic regions, the notion that Gen Y-ers aren't all entrepreneurs isn't so hard to believe.

After all, this group was one of the hardest hit by the Great Recession of 2008. To this day, many young people are struggling to find the kind of stable, high-paying jobs that were plentiful for young college graduates in prior decades. Throw in skyrocketing university tuition fees and the debt that this brings and it's no surprise that, percentage-wise, many young workers aren't ready to take on risk: they don't have the money to!

Many Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, of course, have also been harmed by economic conditions in the past several years, but not to the same extent. And some have also done quite well with real estate and stock prices rebounding.

Highly successful doesn't always mean high-profile

So despite the reduced barriers to starting a business, does this newest survey indicate that a major shift is set to take place in startupland? Will the next Facebook or Instagram be the product of a grandparent? Probably not.

Past research has found that most new businesses aren't started by teenagers and twenty-somethings. Some, of course, are, and many of the most successful have been online businesses focused on the consumer internet. The consumer internet is sexy, and lends itself to mainstream attention, so don't be surprised if twenty-somethings continue to be behind "the next big thing" on the consumer internet in years to come, even if overall this group is less entrepreneurial, relatively-speaking.

But when it comes to the highly successful businesses that don't make headlines -- the companies that are making Big Data actionable or building the algorithms that drive the programmatic buying and selling of media -- expect to see more gray hairs. As has always been the case.

Patricio Robles

Published 27 February, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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