Noam T. Wasserman

Associate Professor of Business Administration

Noam Wasserman is a professor at Harvard Business School.  For more than a decade, his research has focused on founders’ early decisions that can make or break the startup and its team. At HBS, he developed and teaches an MBA elective, “Founders’ Dilemmas,” for which he was awarded the HBS Faculty Teaching Award and the Academy of Management’s 2010 Innovation in Pedagogy Award.  In 2011, the course was also named one of the top entrepreneurship courses in the country by Inc. magazine.

His book, The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup, was published in 2012 by Princeton University Press.  Within two weeks, it had become Amazon's #1 book on the Management bestseller list, #1 in New Business Enterprises, and #2 in Popular Economics.  Publisher's Weekly called it "seminal," "captivating," and "required reading."  The New York Journal of Books called it "the single-most indispensable guide for founders of startups."  In his review, venture capitalist Brad Feld said, “There are plenty of books lots with stories, anecdotes, and suggestions, but none that are particularly systematic about going through all of the issues. Noam’s book is the first I’ve read – and he totally nails it.”  Other reviews can be found here.  Among its awards, the Academy of Management named it one of the Top Five Business Books of the Year, it received the Axiom-Silver Award for Best Business Books of 2012 (Entrepreneurship category) from the Independent Publishers Association, and Startup Weekend named it Top Startup Book of 2012.

Both The Founder’s Dilemmas (the book) and Founders’ Dilemmas (the course) provide a roadmap for founders about the most common pitfalls they will face.  The book and course integrate Noam’s research results, quantitative data collected over the last decade from 10,000 founders, case studies, and conceptual frameworks.  Since 2000, he has been the lead researcher on the annual CompStudy survey of technology and life-sciences startups, which has become the most comprehensive survey of compensation for top management at private companies in the U.S. (and is now expanding to include China, India, Israel, and England).  Noam is one of three members of the core faculty of the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Scholars program, and he has delivered numerous keynote addresses to meetings of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), venture capital retreats, startup incubators, entrepreneurship conferences, and other groups.

Noam’s research has been published in Harvard Business Review (his 2008 article on “The Founder’s Dilemma” became an HBS Publishing best seller), the Academy of Management Journal (2006), Organization Science (2003, 2008), the Best Paper Proceedings of the Academy of Management (2004, 2006), and other publications.  He won Harvard’s George S. Dively award for dissertation research and the Aage Sorensen Memorial Award for sociological research, and for four straight years won the Outstanding Reviewer award from the Academy of Management (Business Policy and Strategy division).

Noam received his PhD from Harvard University in 2002, and received an MBA (with High Distinction) from Harvard Business School in 1999, graduating as a Baker Scholar.  Despite being voted “Most Likely to Become a CEO” by his MBA section, Noam decided to pursue academia as a career and to enter the PhD program (thereby giving up on ever becoming a CEO!). Before coming to Harvard, he was a Principal and Practice Manager at a management-consulting firm near Washington, D.C., where he founded and led the Groupware Practice. He also worked as a venture capitalist at a firm in Boston. He received a BSE (magna cum laude) in Computer Science and Engineering from Penn, and a BSEcon (magna cum laude) in Corporate Finance and Strategic Management from Wharton. He lives in Brookline, MA, with his wife and eight children, loves coaching Little League, and completed Shas in 1997-2005 with the 11th Daf Yomi cycle.

  1. Noam T. Wasserman: Winner of the 2013 Silver Axiom Business Book Award in the Entrepreneurship category from the Independent Publisher Association for The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Princeton University Press, 2012).

  2. Noam T. Wasserman: In 2013, the Academy of Management selected The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Princeton University Press, 2012) as one of the top five business books published in 2012.

  3. Noam T. Wasserman: Noam Wasserman received the 2010 Academy of Management Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award for his course, Founders' Dilemmas.

  4. Noam T. Wasserman: Winner of the 2002 George S. Dively award for dissertation research for "The Venture Capitalist as Entrepreneur: Characteristics and Dynamics within VC Firms" (Harvard University, 2002).

  5. Noam T. Wasserman: Winner of the 2003 Aage Sørensen Memorial Award for sociological research for "Founder-CEO Succession and the Paradox of Entrepreneurial Success" (Organization Science, March–April 2003).