Joseph B. Lassiter

Senior Fellow, Senator John Heinz Professor of Management Practice in Environmental Management, Retired

Joe is the Senator John Heinz Professor of Management Practice in Environmental Management, Retired. He focuses on one of the world’s most pressing problems: developing clean, secure and carbon-neutral supplies of reliable, low-cost energy all around the world. He studies how high-potential ventures attacking this problem are being financed and how their innovations are being brought to market in different parts of the world. In the HBS MBA and Executive Education programs, he teaches about the lessons learned from these ventures as well as potential improvements in business practices, regulation and government policy. On retiring in 2015, Joe was appointed as a Senior Fellow to continue his work on energy and climate change related issues at HBS as well as in supporting University-wide efforts as a Faculty Fellow of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program (HEEP) and a Faculty Associate of the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE).    

After joining HBS in 1996 as a Senior Lecturer, he was appointed a Professor of Management Practice in 1997. He was awarded the MBA Class of 1954 Chair in 2000 and the Senator John Heinz Chair in Environmental Management in 2012. From 2010 until 2015, Joe was Faculty Chair of the University-wide Harvard Innovation Lab (Harvard i-lab). Joe's academic and professional work focused on the creation of high-potential ventures --both as new companies and within existing companies-- and the efforts of their managers to turn these ventures into high-performance businesses. At HBS, he taught courses in Entrepreneurial Finance, Entrepreneurial Marketing, Entrepreneurial Management, Building Green Businesses and Innovation in Business, Energy & Environment. For Harvard University, he taught courses in Innovation & Entrepreneurship to undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from across the University and its affiliated hospitals. Outside Harvard, Joe was active as an investor in and director of a wide range of both new ventures and public companies.

From 1994 to 1996, Joe was President of Wildfire Communications, a telecommunications software venture backed by Matrix Partners and Greylock Partners. From 1977 to 1994, Joe was a Vice President of Teradyne (NYSE/ automatic test equipment) and a member of its Management Committee. Joe joined Teradyne in 1974 as a Product Manager while on sabbatical from MIT.

Joe began his career at MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering as an Instructor in 1970 and was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1972. He developed and taught a course on marine mineral resource economics. He lectured in hydrodynamics, marine transportation, and computer simulation modeling. In a joint program with Harvard Law School, he lectured on marine legal / regulatory policy. His research focused on forecasting economic and environmental consequences of offshore oil and gas development. He was appointed to the MIT-led National Academy of Engineering study on the future of engineering education. Joe received his BS, MS, and PhD from MIT and was awarded National Science, Adams and McDermott Fellowships. He was elected to Sigma Xi.

  1. 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.