Entrepreneurship is a featured research topic and an initiative at Harvard Business School
Our long tradition of research in Entrepreneurship goes back to the 1930's and 1940's with the “the father of venture capitalism,” General Georges Doriot, and Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of innovation as a process of “creative destruction.” Building on our intellectual roots, our scholars come from disciplines including economics, finance, sociology, strategy, business history, management, and social entrepreneurship. A number of our faculty come from practice as venture capitalists and start-up founders. We focus our research on the identification and pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities; domestic and international funding of entrepreneurial endeavors; innovation, particularly technological innovation in international ventures; the environments in which entrepreneurs make decisions; and social entrepreneurship. As our research contributes new insights, we are advancing the world’s understanding of complex entrepreneurial issues and helping to increase the entrepreneurial success of our students and practitioners worldwide. 
  1. Eve Hall: The African American Investment Fund in Milwaukee

    Steven Rogers and Alterrell Mills

    The case highlights the role of minority chambers of commerce and the background of Eve Hall, a regarded multi-sector leader asked to revive Wisconsin’s African-American chamber. This case study examines the lending options that a minority chamber of commerce considers when seeking to maximum value to their constituency. Students learn the challenges minority small business owners and entrepreneurs face, the role of non-financial institutions / community-based organizations in addressing those challenges and the financial tools available to lenders and borrowers in this segment. Students learn how to analyze financing opportunities by assessing the value proposition of chambers of commerce, developing the risk-reward profile of each party involved and deliberate as members of a board to reach a final lending decision.

    Keywords: business organization; Business Plan; change management; Decision Choices and Conditions; demographics; Diversity characteristics; ethnicity characteristics; race characteristics; investment fund; cost of capital; banks and banking; Financing and Lloans; Micro Finance; interest rates; Business or company management; management styles; management succession; mission and purpose; organizational culture; Leadership Style; leadership change; business and community relations; nonprofit organizations; Wealth and Poverty; Organizations; Diversity; Ethnicity; Race; Small Business; Entrepreneurship; Financing and Loans; Decision Choices and Conditions; Employment Industry; Public Administration Industry; Financial Services Industry; Service Industry; United States; Wisconsin;


    Rogers, Steven, and Alterrell Mills. "Eve Hall: The African American Investment Fund in Milwaukee." Harvard Business School Case 317-076, February 2017. View Details
  2. HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business: Think Big, Buy Small, Own Your Own Company

    Richard S. Ruback and Royce Yudkoff

    Find, acquire, and run your own business. Are you looking for an alternative to a career path at a big firm? Does founding your own start-up seem too risky? There is a radical third path open to you: you can buy a small business and run it as CEO. Purchasing a small company offers significant financial rewards—as well as personal and professional fulfillment. Leading a firm means you can be your own boss, put your executive skills to work, fashion a company environment that meets your own needs, and profit directly from your success. But finding the right business to buy and closing the deal isn't always easy. In the HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business, we help you: determine if this path is right for you, raise capital for your acquisition, find and evaluate the right prospects, avoid the pitfalls that could derail your search, understand why a "dull" business might be the best investment, negotiate a potential deal with the seller, and avoid deals that fall through at the last minute.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; entrepreneurial finance; entrepreneurs; small business; Small Companies; small business finance; negotiation; negotiation deal; due diligence; sourcing; Search Funds; search; ownership; deal sourcing; deal structuring; funnel; debt financing; equity; small and medium enterprises; Small Business; Search Technology; Entrepreneurship; Negotiation Deal; Ownership; Equity; Borrowing and Debt;


    Ruback, Richard S., and Royce Yudkoff. HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business: Think Big, Buy Small, Own Your Own Company. Harvard Business Review Press, 2017. View Details
  3. Vox Capital: Pioneering Impact Investing in Brazil

    Julie Battilana, Marissa Kimsey, Falko Paetzold and Priscilla Zogbi

    Vox Capital was the first certified impact investing fund in Brazil. Founded in 2009, it provides early-stage capital for companies offering innovative and scalable solutions to enhance the lives of low-income Brazilians, while aiming to simultaneously generate attractive market-rate financial returns for investors. This case examines the evolution of Vox Capital, across understanding the landscape, launching, raising funds, selecting investees, structuring deals, building investee capacities, tracking performance, developing internal systems, and advancing the field of impact investing.

    Keywords: impact investing; Brazil; social enterprise; social performance measurement; Social Entrepreneurship; Investment Funds; Brazil;


    Battilana, Julie, Marissa Kimsey, Falko Paetzold, and Priscilla Zogbi. "Vox Capital: Pioneering Impact Investing in Brazil." Harvard Business School Case 417-051, January 2017. View Details
  4. Diversity in Innovation

    Paul A. Gompers and Sophie Q. Wang

    In this paper we document the patterns of labor market participation by women and ethnic minorities in venture capital firms and as founders of venture capital-backed startups. We show that from 1990-2016 women have been less than 10% of the entrepreneurial and venture capital labor pool, Hispanics have been around 2%, and African Americans have been less than 1%. This is despite the fact that all three groups have much higher representation in education programs that lead to careers in these sectors as well as having higher representation in other highly-compensated professions. Asians, on the other hand, have much higher representation in the venture capital and entrepreneurial sector than their overall percentages in the labor force. We explore potential supply side explanations including both education attainment as well as relevant prior job experience. We also explore the correlation between diversity and state-level variations. Finally, we discuss how these patterns are consistent with homophily-based hiring and homophily-induced information flows about career choices. We end the paper by discussing areas for future research.

    Keywords: Diversity; Gender; Entrepreneurship; Venture Capital;


    Gompers, Paul A., and Sophie Q. Wang. "Diversity in Innovation." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-067, January 2017. View Details
  5. Delivering the Goods at Shippo

    Jeffrey J. Bussgang, Jeffrey F. Rayport and Olivia Hull

    Laura Behrens Wu, CEO of software start-up Shippo, prepares her pitch for a Series A funding round following a successful seed round. Customer adoption of Shippo’s e-commerce dashboard application, which allows small and medium retailers to compare delivery rates between shipping providers and print package labels, has been steady in the nine months since it went live. But traction with the firm’s developer-friendly product, an API that allows large enterprise customers to automate their shipping needs, had initially been slow until one customer single-handedly tripled the API label volume in late August. Now in November 2014, with nine months of runway remaining, Behrens Wu must decide where to direct the company’s limited resources. Should Shippo stay focused on the app while raising the next round of funding, pivot to an API-focused strategy, or pursue both products?

    Keywords: application program interface; API; API strategy; customer cohorts; churn; retention; Entrepreneurship; Venture Capital; Business Startups; Transition; Customer Focus and Relationships; Technological Innovation; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Valuation; Shipping Industry; Technology Industry; Retail Industry; San Francisco; California; United States;


    Bussgang, Jeffrey J., Jeffrey F. Rayport, and Olivia Hull. "Delivering the Goods at Shippo." Harvard Business School Case 817-065, January 2017. (Revised February 2017.) View Details
  6. Classtivity: Payal's Pirouette

    Jeffrey J. Bussgang and Olivia Hull

    A few months after launching a new fitness technology product, the small staff of New York startup Classtivity gathers on a Saturday in April 2013 to take stock. With one successful pivot under their belt, Classtivity is finally generating revenue and enthusiasm among customers. But cofounder and CEO Payal Kadakia has some doubts. There are signs that customers love the offering, but studios are less enthusiastic. Efforts to get customers to return to the studios after their monthly packs expire have largely failed. Kadakia must decide, preserve the product or pivot to a new business model?

    Keywords: product pivot; boutique fitness; fitness industry; market sizing; consumer technology; bundling; subscription model; two-sided marketplace; ClassPass; Entrepreneurship; Venture Capital; Business Startups; Transition; Customer Focus and Relationships; Technological Innovation; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Customer Value and Value Chain; Marketing Strategy; Failure; Business Strategy; Technology Industry; Health Industry; New York (city, NY);


    Bussgang, Jeffrey J., and Olivia Hull. "Classtivity: Payal's Pirouette." Harvard Business School Case 817-002, January 2017. View Details
  7. United Housing — Otis Gates

    Steven Rogers and Mercer Cook

    Otis Gates has built a successful affordable housing firm. Along the way, he and his partners have engaged in large amounts of community service in the neighborhoods wherein they own properties. Now 80 and ready to retire, Gates is creating a request for proposal for his firm. In doing so, he has to evaluate his firm’s total value and decide whether their social-good mission is helping or harming their bottom line.

    Keywords: affordable housing; real estate; community engagement; social-good; request for proposal; diversity; entrepreneurship; Social Entrepreneurship; Moral Sensibility; Fairness; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Housing; Real Estate Industry;


    Rogers, Steven, and Mercer Cook. "United Housing — Otis Gates." Harvard Business School Case 317-059, January 2017. View Details
  8. Buying Your Way into Entrepreneurship

    Richard S. Ruback and Royce Yudkoff

    An increasingly popular route to success as a small business owner is “acquisition entrepreneurship”—buying and running an existing operation. If you’re considering such a path, the authors offer practical advice for each stage of the process. Think it through. Do you have the right qualities for the job (managerial skills, confidence, persuasiveness, persistence, a thirst for learning, and tolerance for stress)? Are you willing to trade the benefits of working at a large organization for the chance to be in charge? Search diligently and efficiently. Plan to spend six months to two years—full time—following leads and systematically vetting business prospects. Focus on companies that are consistently profitable and have annual revenues of $5 million to $15 million. During this phase, you can self-finance or establish a search fund to recruit potential investors. Strike a deal. When you’ve settled on a target, do preliminary due diligence to confirm the business’s viability and arrive at a fair offer. If the seller accepts, you’ll have about 90 days to work with your accountant and attorney on confirmatory due diligence. Transition into leadership. After the sale closes, your priorities should be building relationships (with employees, customers, and suppliers) and setting up processes to ensure steady cash flow.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Acquisition; Planning;


    Ruback, Richard S., and Royce Yudkoff. "Buying Your Way into Entrepreneurship." Harvard Business Review 95, no. 1 (January–February 2017): 149–153. View Details
  9. Getting Started with Ambidexterity

    Andy Binns and Michael Tushman

    This paper demonstrates the value of thinking about ambidexterity as having three distinct moments—ideation, incubation, and scaling—that share common features for success, such as the role of the senior team, and that also have distinct disciplines. Incubation is a frequent point of breakdown for firms that seek to build new businesses inside existing corporations; promising ideas often simply do not progress. There are many useful lessons to learn from the start-up movement about how best to organize and execute new ventures as “business experiments.” These lessons from the “start-up garage” enable established corporations to make progress on new ventures in a disciplined, fact-based way, while also moving at speed. We have identified eight key success factors for managing business experiments at the “incubation moment,” which appear to improve the prospects of success.

    Keywords: Corporate Entrepreneurship; Business Startups; Innovation and Invention;


    Binns, Andy, and Michael Tushman. "Getting Started with Ambidexterity." Chap. 4 in Advancing Organizational Theory in a Complex World, edited by Jane Qiu, Ben Nanfeng Luo, Chris Jackson, and Karin Sanders, 60–73. London, UK: Routledge, 2017. View Details
  10. thredUP: Think Secondhand First

    Thomas Eisenmann, Allison Ciechanover and Jeff Huizinga

    In the fall of 2016, the management team at thredUP, the largest U.S. online retailer of secondhand clothing, is deciding whether to expand into international markets. Over the past 12 months the 7-year old startup, which had raised over $130 million in venture capital, had seen revenue grow 100% and gross margin double. Would moving abroad expand thredUP's total addressable market and help position the company for an IPO? Or would it prove a distraction, derailing momentum in the core U.S. business?

    Keywords: scaling start-ups; international expansion; online consignment; Apparel; entrepreneurship; e-commerce; Online Technology; Expansion; Entrepreneurship; Global Strategy; Business Startups; Apparel and Accessories Industry; Retail Industry; San Francisco;


    Eisenmann, Thomas, Allison Ciechanover, and Jeff Huizinga. "thredUP: Think Secondhand First." Harvard Business School Case 817-083, December 2016. View Details
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