Research Summary

Innovating in Energy: Learning from High-Potential Ventures

by Joseph B. Lassiter


My work at HBS has always focused on high-potential ventures.  Most recently, these have been professionally financed start-ups and buyouts in newly emerging energy and cleantech businesses. These ventures tend to be based on innovative insights into technology and consumer/buyer behavior coupled with a deep understanding of the relevant regulatory and political environments. I look at the financing of these ventures as well as bringing their innovations to market in different parts of the world. 

For the purposes of my research, a high-potential venture is defined as one having the objective of building at least $50 million per year of new product/service sales in five or fewer years. These can be either new ventures or efforts within existing companies. I study these ventures in the  high-potential setting because business problems and opportunities tend to stand out clearly under the stresses of such an environment. These problems and opportunities are highlighted in the conflicts between the expectations of employees and investors, as management confronts the constraints of time, cash flow, and financing. I concentrate on start-ups and buyouts because these tend to have relatively short, intense lifecycles, allowing the results obtained and the methods used by the managers to be observed before the evidence is either lost or forgotten. I have found that the insights gained from studying this population can be successfully applied to the challenges facing investors and managers in both new ventures and established firms.