I donīt think so. In early 2001 we had no presence on the web. We did our website and within 9 months we came up in the first 3 on most searches for our keyword, and often #1. From what I can tell, content is what makes it for us. We optimized and optimized and continue optimizing.
Well, from my personal experience, I do agree to an extent that older sites do tend to be better positioned. However, that is largely due to the fact that they managed to acquire numerous (free) links and listings at a time when PageRank was non-existent and the web was perceived as a free medium.
Our site only serves a very small industry so maybe there are 20 to 30 major competitors. But I do know that our major competitor, who doesnīt get exceptional rankings except on Teoma/ASK has 10x-50x more links that we do. So based on my experience it didnīt seem very relevant.