Joseph B. Lassiter

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

Joe teaches Entrepreneurial Finance and Innovation in Business, Energy and Environment in the MBA Program as well as courses in the Executive Education Program. He is Faculty Chair of the University-wide Harvard Innovation Lab.  His academic and professional work focuses on high-potential ventures, including both those formed as new companies and those formed within existing organizations.

From 1994 to 1996, Joe was President of Wildfire Communications, a telecommunications software venture backed by Matrix Partners and Greylock Management. 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. As a general manager, he was responsible for organizations ranging from start-ups to international, multi-plant businesses. As an individual contributor, he was best known for his work on product development/ sales management problems and on the application of TQM methods to business planning and control.

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. Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Learning from High-Potential Ventures

    by Joseph B. Lassiter

    I study high-potential ventures. Typically, these are professionally financed start-ups and buyouts in technology and consumer markets. My work is currently focused on the newly emerging energy and cleantech businesses. 

    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 sales in five or fewer years. I study 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 focus on technology and consumer products 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. To date, I have written some 75 business cases and have supervised more than 500 student team projects to probe this population, extracting observations about what managers really did while managing ventures in a high-potential setting.