9 Founders Who Got a Late Start

For these savvy entrepreneurs, the wait was well worth it.

What do Albert Einstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic Tim Page, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus all have in common? They found success later in life. The trait isn't uncommon among entrepreneurs. Some are dreamers, others are tinkerers, and still others simply wake up only to realize they no longer like being stuck in a desk job. Here are nine entrepreneurs who blossomed after 40, starting with LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman.

After he graduated from Stanford, Reid Hoffman spent 15 years deciding what he wanted to do.At first, he thought of himself as an academic type, but he was destined to become an entrepreneur. In 2002, at age 35, he co-founded LinkedIn, a social network for professionals, with money he'd made from the sale of PayPal, which he helped build. When he was 43, LinkedIn went public.

Robert Noyce was a studious scientist all his life, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in physics and mathematics from Grinnell College. He even earned a doctorate in physics at MIT. Later on he worked as a research engineer, then co-founded the company Fairchild Semiconductor. At 40, he stuck gold with Intel.

One of seven children, Thomas Siebel has earned degrees in history, computer science, and business. Though he had some success during stints at the Oracle Corporation and Gain Technology, it wasn't until he turned 41 that he found success with Siebel Systems. Today, the company is the dominant Customer Relationship Management vendor, with a 45 percent share of the market.

Dave Duffield comes from a long line of engineers. His family founded Cornell's Duffield Hall and he attended Cornell to study electrical engineering. Eventually, he earned a master's degree in business administration. Though he did create some successful IT and consulting companies after college, PeopleSoft, which launched when Duffield was 46, has been the most notable. In 2005, Duffield launched Workday, an SaaS management vendor.

The house doctor's son got his start as an accountant in San Antonio, Texas. While working with policyholders, he realized the insurance system was in need of an overhaul. Why didn't companies deal with customers directly? After enduring countless workdays for meager pay, he eventually founded GEICO in 1936, just in time for his "Over the Hill" party.

For a time, Raymond Kroc drove around the country selling milkshake machines. When the 52-year-old met Maurice and Richard McDonald, who ran a drive-in restaurant in San Bernadino, California Kroc was intrigued by their business. Whereas most companies bought a single machine, this family bought eight. Kroc persuaded the McDonalds to allow him to franchise their business. He wanted to create a brand, where repeat business was based on the name as opposed to one store's reputation. The franchises took off, but the plan was financially bankrupt. Eventually Kroc purchased the company from the family for $2.7 million.

During the Civil War, wounded soldiers were often treated with morphine. But a Georgian pharmacist and physician named John Stith Pemberton had something better: Pemberton's French Wine Coca. When Atlanta passed new temperance legislation, the 55-year-old was forced to reformulate his beverage. With help from his son, he replaced the wine with sugar, forming the Coca-Cola company. Pemberton began selling interest in the formula, which was quickly scooped up by an employee named Asa Candler in 1888, the year Pemberton passed away. By 1891, Candler owned the whole enterprise.

The father of American shipbuilding and Kaiser Permanente got his start as a shutterbug, not an industrialist. When he turned 32, Henry J. Kaiser formed a paving company that built roads in Cuba and worked on the Hoover Dam. But as the U.S. became more involved with World War II, Kaiser's West Coast shipyards produced cargo ships in a remarkably short time frame -- between four to 45 days. By age 63, Kaiser and a physician named Sidney Garfield established Kaiser Permanente to provide quality, affordable care to the public.

Harland David Sanders had been a job-hopper most of his life. At various points, he was a farmer, a steamboat pilot, an insurance agent, and even a railroad fireman. There was just one problem: He kept getting fired. One day, Sanders opened a small service station, which became popular but fizzled out when Interstate 75 opened. Undeterred, the 65-year-old cashed his $105 social security check, met with potential franchisees, and persuaded them to work with him in "handshake deals." By 1964, Sanders sold the company, which now had over 600 outlets, for $2 million (around $15 million today).

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