Josh Lerner

Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking
Unit Head, Entrepreneurial Management

Josh Lerner is the Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking at Harvard Business School, and head of the Entrepreneurial Management unit. He graduated from Yale College with a special divisional major that combined physics with the history of technology.  He worked for several years on issues concerning technological innovation and public policy at the Brookings Institution, for a public-private task force in Chicago, and on Capitol Hill.  He then earned a Ph.D. from Harvard's Economics Department.

Josh Lerner is the Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking at Harvard Business School, and head of the Entrepreneurial Management unit. He graduated from Yale College with a special divisional major that combined physics with the history of technology.  He worked for several years on issues concerning technological innovation and public policy at the Brookings Institution, for a public-private task force in Chicago, and on Capitol Hill.  He then earned a Ph.D. from Harvard's Economics Department. 

Much of his research focuses on the structure and role of venture capital and private equity organizations.  (This research is collected in three books, The Venture Capital Cycle, The Money of Invention, and Boulevard of Broken Dreams.)  He also examines policies on innovation and how they impact firm strategies.  (That research is discussed in the books Innovation and Its Discontents, The Comingled Code, and the Architecture of Innovation.)  He co-directs the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Program and serves as co-editor of their publication, Innovation Policy and the Economy. He founded and runs the Private Capital Research Institute, a nonprofit devoted to encouraging access to data and research about venture capital and private equity.

In the 1993-1994 academic year, he introduced an elective course for second-year MBAs.  Over the past two decades, “Venture Capital and Private Equity” has consistently been one of the largest elective courses at Harvard Business School.  (The course materials are collected in Venture Capital and Private Equity: A Casebook, now in its fifth edition, and the textbook Venture Capital, Private Equity, and the Financing of Entrepreneurship.)  He also teaches a doctoral course on entrepreneurship and chairs the Owners-Presidents-Managers Program and executive courses on private equity. 

Among other recognitions, he is the winner of the Swedish government’s 2010 Global Entrepreneurship Research Award.  He has recently been named one of the 100 most influential people in private equity over the past decade by Private Equity International magazine and one of the ten most influential academics in the institutional investing world by Asset International's Chief Investment Officer magazine.

  1. The Architecture of Innovation: The Economics of Creative Organizations

    Innovation is a much-used buzzword these days, but when it comes to creating and implementing a new idea, many companies miss the mark—plans backfire, consumer preferences shift, or tried-and-true practices fail to work in a new context. So is innovation just a low-odds crapshoot?

  2. The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited (National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report)

    While the importance of innovation to economic development is widely understood, the conditions conducive to it remain the focus of much attention. This volume offers new theoretical and empirical contributions to fundamental questions relating to the economics of innovation and technological change while revisiting the findings of a classic book. Central to the development of new technologies are institutional environments, and among the topics discussed here are the roles played by universities and other nonprofit research institutions and the ways in which the allocation of funds between the public and private sectors affects innovation. Other essays examine the practice of open research and how the diffusion of information technology influences the economics of knowledge accumulation. Analytically sophisticated and broad in scope, this book addresses a key topic at a time when economic growth is all the more topical.
  3. Venture Capital and Private Equity: A Casebook

    The 5th edition of Lerner's Venture Capital and Private Equity: A Casebook continues to present the important historical cases of private equity while incorporating a number of new relevant and timely cases from previous best-selling issues. It includes more cases relevant to the texts four main goals: understanding the ways in which private equity firms work, applying the key ideas of corporate finance to the industry, understanding the process of valuation, and critiquing valuation approaches of the past and present- an approach which has proved very successful over the past four editions.

    This casebook contains cases and notes designed to provide an understanding of the history of the private equity industry's development and the workings of the industry today. By explaining the industry on a case-by-case basis, this text promises to address the critical question of whether gains made in recent years have been sustained and how firms will respond to the current opportunities and challenges.

  4. Venture Capital, Private Equity, and the Financing of Entrepreneurship

    Venture Capital, Private Equity, and the Financing of Entrepreneurship explores the exciting world of active investing and lays out in a clear and readily accessible way their key features, ways of doing business and likely evolution. The book follows the cycle of active investing. Raising funds, considering transactions, structuring and overseeing transactions, and exiting investments are considered in turn. The focus is not just on the U.S. market, but on the increasingly global nature of these activities.
  5. The Comingled Code: Open Source and Economic Development

    Discussions of the economic impact of open source software often generate more heat than light. Advocates passionately assert the benefits of open source while critics decry its effects. Missing from the debate is rigorous economic analysis and systematic economic evidence of the impact of open source on consumers, firms, and economic development in general. This book fills that gap. In The Comingled Code, Josh Lerner and Mark Schankerman, drawing on a new, large-scale database, show that open source and proprietary software interact in sometimes unexpected ways, and discuss the policy implications of these findings. The new data (from a range of countries in varying stages of development) documents the mixing of open source and proprietary software: firms sell proprietary software while contributing to open source, and users extensively mix and match the two. Lerner and Schankerman examine the ways in which software differs from other technologies in promoting economic development, what motivates individuals and firms to contribute to open source projects, how developers and users view the trade-offs between the two kinds of software, and how government policies can ensure that open source competes effectively with proprietary software and contributes to economic development.

  6. International Differences in Entrepreneurship (National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report)

    Often considered one of the major forces behind economic growth and development, the entrepreneurial firm can accelerate the speed of innovation and dissemination of new technologies, thus increasing a country's competitive edge in the global market. As a result, cultivating a strong culture of entrepreneurial thinking has become a primary goal throughout the world.

    Surprisingly, there has been little systematic research or comparative analysis to show how the growth of entrepreneurship differs among countries in various stages of development. International Differences in Entrepreneurship fills this void by explaining how a country's institutional differences, cultural considerations, and personal characteristics can affect the role that entrepreneurs play in its economy. Developing an understanding of the origins of entrepreneurs as well as the choices they make and the complexity of their activities across countries and industries are of central importance to this volume. In addition, contributors consider how environmental factors of individual economies, such as market regulation, government subsidies for banks, and support for entrepreneurial culture affect the industry and the impact that entrepreneurs have on growth in developing nations.

  7. Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed--and What to Do About It

    Silicon Valley, Singapore, Tel Aviv—the global hubs of entrepreneurial activity—all bear the marks of government investment. Yet, for every public intervention that spurs entrepreneurial activity, there are many failed efforts that waste untold billions in taxpayer dollars. When has governmental sponsorship succeeded in boosting growth, and when has it fallen terribly short? Should the government be involved in such undertakings at all? Boulevard of Broken Dreams is the first extensive look at the ways governments have supported entrepreneurs and venture capitalists across decades and continents. Josh Lerner, one of the foremost experts in the field, provides valuable insights into why some public initiatives work while others are hobbled by pitfalls, and he offers suggestions for how public ventures should be implemented in the future.

    Discussing the complex history of Silicon Valley and other pioneering centers of venture capital, Lerner uncovers the extent of government influence in prompting growth. He examines the public strategies used to advance new ventures, points to the challenges of these endeavors, and reveals the common flaws undermining far too many programs--poor design, a lack of understanding for the entrepreneurial process, and implementation problems. Lerner explains why governments cannot dictate how venture markets evolve, and why they must balance their positions as catalysts with an awareness of their limited ability to stimulate the entrepreneurial sector.

    As governments worldwide seek to spur economic growth in ever more aggressive ways, Boulevard of Broken Dreams offers an important caution. The book argues for a careful approach to government support of entrepreneurial activities, so that the mistakes of earlier efforts are not repeated

  8. The Venture Capital Cycle

    In The Venture Capital Cycle, Paul Gompers and Josh Lerner correct widespread misperceptions about the nature and role of the venture capitalist and provide an accessible and comprehensive overview of the venture capital industry. Bringing together fifteen years of ground-breaking research into the form and function of venture capital firms, they examine the fund-raising, investing, and exit stages of venture capitalists. Three major themes run throughout the process: venture investors confront tremendous information and incentive problems; venture capital processes are inherently interrelated, and a complete understanding of the industry requires a full understanding of the venture cycle; and, unlike most financial markets, the venture capital industry adjusts very slowly to shifts in the demand for and the supply of investment capital.This second edition has been thoroughly revised in light of recent research findings, and includes six new chapters. The first part, on fund-raising, now includes a chapter that examines what determines the level of venture capital fund-raising and how tax policy influences the demand for venture capital. Three new chapters in the second part, on investing, examine what kind of distortions are introduced when the venture capital market goes dramatically up, a question prompted by the 1999-2000 market bubble; demonstrate that the venture capital industry does indeed spur innovation, an important determinant of economic growth; and examine whether and under what circumstances governments can be effective venture capitalists. Two new chapters in the third part, on exiting venture capital investments, discuss whether venture capital firms affiliated with investment-banks are prone to conflicts of interest with public offerings and how lockups on initial public offerings are used to limit conflicts of interest.

  9. Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do About It

    The United States patent system has become sand rather than lubricant in the wheels of American progress. Such is the premise behind this provocative and timely book by two of the nation's leading experts on patents and economic innovation.

    Innovation and Its Discontents tells the story of how recent changes in patenting--an institutional process that was created to nurture innovation--have wreaked havoc on innovators, businesses, and economic productivity. Jaffe and Lerner, who have spent the past two decades studying the patent system, show how legal changes initiated in the 1980s converted the system from a stimulator of innovation to a creator of litigation and uncertainty that threatens the innovation process itself.

    In one telling vignette, Jaffe and Lerner cite a patent litigation campaign brought by a a semi-conductor chip designer that claims control of an entire category of computer memory chips. The firm's claims are based on a modest 15-year old invention, whose scope and influenced were broadened by secretly manipulating an industry-wide cooperative standard-setting body.

    Such cases are largely the result of two changes in the patent climate, Jaffe and Lerner contend. First, new laws have made it easier for businesses and inventors to secure patents on products of all kinds, and second, the laws have tilted the table to favor patent holders, no matter how tenuous their claims.

    After analyzing the economic incentives created by the current policies, Jaffe and Lerner suggest a three-pronged solution for restoring the patent system: create incentives to motivate parties who have information about the novelty of a patent; provide multiple levels of patent review; and replace juries with judges and special masters to preside over certain aspects of infringement cases.

    Well-argued and engagingly written, Innovation and Its Discontents offers a fresh approach for enhancing both the nation's creativity and its economic growth.

  10. The Money of Invention: How Venture Capital Creates New Wealth

    When the economy was booming and dot-coms were flying high, venture capitalists were admired as impresarios of innovation. Then the market tanked, start-ups fizzled, and those same deal-makers were rebuked as predators out for a quick score. So which portrayal is accurate? Where is this much-hyped industry heading? And what will it mean for the future of innovation in the global economy? In this definitive book, industry experts Paul Gompers and Josh Lerner provide the first cool-headed explanation of the venture capital industry and the role it plays in our economy. They underscore that, regardless of the economic conditions, innovation is incredibly difficult to finance, take to market, and translate into value. While venture capital has evolved to address these problems - the industry has fueled innovation, economic growth, and wealth creation for decades - features of the venture industry have left it vulnerable to boom-and-bust cycles.In the near future, say the authors, the industry must transform dramatically, with important implications for industry players and the entrepreneurs and organizations they serve. Drawing from compelling research and industry "war stories," Gompers and Lerner present a series of practical frameworks for understanding the relationships among venture capital, innovation, and entrepreneurial success. They demystify how the venture capital world operates, and outline the opportunities and obstacles faced by all players in this evolving arena.They explore: the problems entrepreneurs encounter in securing financing, and how the venture capital model can help innovators to resolve them; how venture capitalists can effectively pursue promising opportunities while building a sustainable franchise; and, how corporations, nonprofits, and government institutions can harness the power - and avoid the pitfalls - of the venture capital model when applying it in their own sectors. Whether the industry is enjoying an incredible growth spurt or weathering an economic slowdown, readers will find this book an immensely practical guide to leveraging the venture capital model to turn innovation into value. Paul A. Gompers is a Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School. Josh Lerner is a Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Both authors live in the Boston area.