Our long tradition of research in Entrepreneurship goes back to the 1930's and 1940's with the "father of venture capitalism," General Georges Doriot, and  Joseph Schumpeter's theory of innovation as a process of "creative destruction;" as well as his interdisciplinary Center for Research on Entrepreneurial History based at HBS and with its journal Explorations in Entrepreneurial History.  Building on our intellectual roots, our scholars come from a variety of disciplines including economics, finance, sociology, strategy, business history, management, and social entrepreneurship.  In addition, a number of our faculty come from practice as venture capitalists and start-up founders, which brings a wealth of experience that is of great benefit to our research.  As a result, our footprint is marked by the span and depth of our research which can be applied across a variety of platforms and methodologies.  We tend to focus on the following categories:
  • The identification and pursuit of opportunities at startups and established firms
  • Domestic and international funding for entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Innovation, particularly technological innovation in international ventures
  • The environment in which entrepreneurs make decisions across national borders, cultures, legal systems, and time
  • Social entrepreneurship
Large-scale projects and the use of longitudinal data are at the core of our research engine.  Over the past 12 years, Noam Wasserman has been building the world’s most comprehensive database of start-up executive compensation.  As another example, Felda Hardymon, Josh Lerner, and Tom Nicholas have joined together in a collaborative effort to examine the past, present, and the future of the venture capital industry in order to understand one of the most significant channels for the provision of entrepreneurial finance over time, with such studies as a work by Nicholas on one of the oldest venture capital firms in the US. 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. Apple's Core (Graphic Novel Version)

    Keywords: Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Equity; Managerial Roles; Partners and Partnerships; Conflict Management;


    Wasserman, Noam, and Thomas Alexander. "Apple's Core (Graphic Novel Version)." Harvard Business School Case 814-059, December 2014.
  2. Teach For China and the Chinese Nonprofit Sector

    Teach For China was founded in 2008 with the mission of expanding educational opportunity across China. By 2013, Andrea Pasinetti’s lofty dream had taken flight: over 300 graduates from top American and Chinese universities were participating in its 2-year teaching fellowships in more than 87 rural Chinese schools. The organization had grown from a founding team of three in a shoebox office to an 80-person operation headquartered in Beijing with teams in six other locations across China. Teach For China adapted the model pioneered by Teach For America to meet the needs of the educationally under-resourced of rural China. Led by an American, could Teach For China reshape its international identity and become an enduring Chinese institution? Could Teach For China manage regulatory risks and challenge public and government skepticism of the still-nascent and highly volatile nonprofit sector? Would Teach For China be able to sustainably scale its model to truly end educational inequality in China?

    Keywords: nonprofit; China; education; Business and Government Relations; business and poverty; business and society; social enterprise; entrepreneurship; emerging market entrepreneurship; emerging market; NGO; Education; Entrepreneurship; Social Enterprise; Emerging Markets; Non-Governmental Organizations; Nonprofit Organizations; Education Industry; China;


    Kirby, William C., and Erica M. Zendell. "Teach For China and the Chinese Nonprofit Sector." Harvard Business School Case 314-052, March 2014.
  3. Jurlique: Globalizing Beauty from Nature and Science

    Considers the marketing and strategic challenges faced by natural beauty brands using the case of Australian-based Jurlique, which was acquired by Pola of Japan in 2011. The case opens two years later in July 2013 when Sam McKay, the chief executive officer, on a visit to Pola’s head office in Tokyo, heard news of critical comments about the company and animal testing in a Facebook post from a group in South Australia, where the brand had been founded as a small biodynamic farm in 1985. The discussion of Jurlique’s involvement with animal testing was a sensitive issue as it contradicted the brand’s strong environmentally-friendly and ethical positioning. The matter had already arisen during the Pola acquisition as Pola, like all Japanese cosmetics companies, traditionally tested products on animals. The animal testing issue is put in context by a discussion of how during Jurlique’s growth as a successful premium brand there had been substantial changes in market position, in part associated with shifts of ownership. At times the brand had been focused on core green consumers, but McKay had sought to broaden the consumer base by repositioning it as making “the most effective products as natural as possible.” The company lost few existing customers, and found that Jurlique’s image was an asset in attracting Chinese consumers who liked the story of the Australian farm which produced most ingredients. However, Chinese regulations refusing to allow the firm’s stores to use recycled wood, and mandating of animal testing, were challenging to the brand’s global natural brand position. The case can be taught both in marketing classes concerned with green business and in strategy classes exploring the challenges faced by global brands.

    Keywords: "Australia; "China; "environmental strategies, green business; "Marketing; Entrepreneurship; Globalization; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; China; Australia; United States;


    Jones, Geoffrey, and Andrew Spadafora. "Jurlique: Globalizing Beauty from Nature and Science." Harvard Business School Case 314-087, March 2014.
  4. Competing in New Markets and the Search for a Viable Business Model

    Prior research examines how firms compete effectively in established markets. This study investigates new markets, and traces how entrepreneurial rivals in such a market search for a successful strategy. Through an in-depth, multiple-case study of firms in the nascent online-investing market, we induce a theoretical framework to explain how firms win the race to find a viable business model. As the new market emerged, high-performing firms enacted three strategies in sequence that helped them achieve their objective quickly and efficiently. First, their executives focused primarily on substitutes but copied from rivals. Next, they actively tested their assumptions and made major resource commitments to the business model they identified as the most lucrative. Finally, they deliberately maintained a loosely structured organizational activity system in order to continue to accommodate emergent sources of value. For these firms, competition resembled neither economic rivalry nor collective action but a logic of interaction akin to parallel play. The resultant middle-range theory has implications for research on entrepreneurial competition in new markets and on the organizational processes of developing a business model.

    Keywords: Business Model; Market Entry and Exit; Competitive Strategy; Entrepreneurship; Financial Services Industry;


    McDonald, Rory. "Competing in New Markets and the Search for a Viable Business Model." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-088, March 2014.
  5. The Liability of Leakage: How Indirect Ties to Competitors Impact Innovation in Entrepreneurial Firms

    This paper investigates the impact of early relationships on entrepreneurial firm innovation. Prior research has largely focused on the benefits of network ties, documenting the many advantages that accrue to firms embedded in a rich network of inter-organizational relationships. In contrast, we build on competitive interaction research to consider potential drawbacks and emphasize how competitive exposure, enabled by powerful intermediaries, can inhibit innovation. We develop a conceptualization of information leakage that occurs when firms are indirectly tied to their competitors through these shared intermediary organizations. To test our theory, we examine every relationship between entrepreneurial firms and their venture capital investors in the minimally invasive surgical segment of the medical device industry over a 22-year period. The theory and evidence provide novel insights for entrepreneurship research while contributing to the literatures on innovation and competition through networks.

    Keywords: Networks; Competition; Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention;


    Pahnke, Emily Cox, Rory McDonald, and Dan Wang. "The Liability of Leakage: How Indirect Ties to Competitors Impact Innovation in Entrepreneurial Firms." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-089, March 2014.
  6. Investors Prefer Entrepreneurial Ventures Pitched by Attractive Men

    Entrepreneurship is a central path to job creation, economic growth, and prosperity. In the earliest stages of start-up business creation, the matching of entrepreneurial ventures to investors is critically important. The entrepreneur’s business proposition and previous experience are regarded as the main criteria for investment decisions. Our research, however, documents other critical criteria that investors use to make these decisions: the gender and physical attractiveness of the entrepreneurs themselves. Across a field setting (three entrepreneurial pitch competitions in the United States) and two experiments, we identify a profound and consistent gender gap in entrepreneur persuasiveness. Investors prefer pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches made by female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitch is the same. This effect is moderated by male physical attractiveness: attractive males were particularly persuasive, whereas physical attractiveness did not matter among female entrepreneurs.

    Keywords: Prejudice and Bias; Entrepreneurship; Investment; Gender Characteristics;


    Brooks, Alison Wood, Laura Huang, Sarah Wood Kearney, and Fiona Murray. "Investors Prefer Entrepreneurial Ventures Pitched by Attractive Men." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, no. 10 (March 10, 2014).
  7. The First Deal: The Division of Founder Equity in New Ventures

    This paper examines the division of founder shares in entrepreneurial ventures, focusing on the decision of whether or not to divide the shares equally among all founders. To motivate the empirical analysis we develop a simple theory of costly bargaining, where founders trade off the simplicity of accepting an equal split with the costs of negotiating a differentiated allocation of founder equity. We test the predictions of the theory on a proprietary dataset comprised of 1,476 founders in 511 entrepreneurial ventures. The empirical analysis consists of three main steps. First we consider determinants of equal splitting. We identify three founder characteristics—idea generation, prior entrepreneurial experience, and founder capital contributions—regarding which greater team heterogeneity reduces the likelihood of equal splitting. Second, we show that these same founder characteristics also significantly affect the share premium in teams that split the equity unequally. Third, we show that equal splitting is associated with lower pre-money valuations in first financing rounds. Further econometric tests suggest that, as predicted by the theory, this effect is driven by unobservable heterogeneity, and it is more pronounced in teams that make quick decisions about founder share allocations. In addition we perform some counterfactual calculations that estimate the amount of money "left on the table" by stronger founders who agree to an equal split. We estimate that the value at stake is approximately 10% of the firm equity, 25% of the average founder stake, or $450K in net present value.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Equity;


    Hellmann, Thomas F., and Noam Wasserman. "The First Deal: The Division of Founder Equity in New Ventures." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-085, March 2014.
  8. Waste, Recycling and Entrepreneurship in Central and Northern Europe, 1870–1940

    This working paper examines the role of entrepreneurs in the municipal solid waste industry in industrialized central and northern Europe from the late nineteenth century to the 1940s. It explores the emergence of numerous German, Danish, and other European entrepreneurial firms explicitly devoted to making a profitable business out of conserving and returning valuable resources to productive use, while maintaining public sanitation and in many cases offering nascent environmental protections. These ventures were qualitatively different from both earlier smaller private waste traders, and the later garbage agglomerates, and have been neglected in an era that historians have treated as a period of municipalization. These entrepreneurs sometimes had strikingly modern views of environmental challenges and the need to overcome them. They initiated processes for sorting and recycling waste materials that are still employed today. Yet it proved difficult to combine making profits and achieving social value in accordance with the “shared value” model of today. As providers of public goods such as health and sanitation and a cleaner environment, the entrepreneurs were often unable to capture sufficient profits to sustain businesses. Recycled-goods markets were volatile. There was also a tension between the constant waste stream on the collection side and a seasonal/cyclical demand for recycled products. The frequent failure of these businesses helps to explain why in more recent decades private waste companies have been associated with late entry into recycling, often trailing municipal governments and non-profit entities.

    Keywords: Environmental Entrepreneurship; business history; Entrepreneurship; Health; History; Green Technology Industry; Germany; Denmark; Hungary; United Kingdom;


    Jones, Geoffrey, and Andrew Spadafora. "Waste, Recycling and Entrepreneurship in Central and Northern Europe, 1870–1940." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-084, March 2014.
  9. The Michelin Restaurant Guide: Charting a New Course

    Abstract: Created in 1900 by the tire manufacturer Michelin, the Michelin Restaurant Guide was widely considered the international benchmark of food rating, and, by 2013, boasted paper editions in 23 countries, and had recently expanded to the United States and Asia. Paper sales however had dropped, following the emergence of free, online guides, global players, and more broadly, the wider diffusion of the internet. In 2012, the Guide had launched a new range of services targeting restaurateurs. The Director of the Guide was contemplating developing the Guide even more internationally and on digital formats, but also knew he needed to limit costs.

    Keywords: restaurant; food; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Business Model; Food; Brands and Branding; Media; Culture; Expansion; Corporate Strategy; Value Creation; Food and Beverage Industry; Tourism Industry; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Publishing Industry; Transportation Industry; Travel Industry; Europe; United States; Japan; China;


    Khaire, Mukti, Elena Corsi, and Jerome Lenhardt. "The Michelin Restaurant Guide: Charting a New Course." Harvard Business School Case 814-088, February 2014.
  10. Mara Group

    Mara Group is a rapidly growing Pan-African conglomerate run by its entrepreneurial CEO Ashish Thakkar. The case explores Thakkar's decision on which African markets to expand operations into.

    Keywords: telecommunications manufacturing; Business Ventures; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Pulp and Paper Industry; Real Estate Industry; Shipping Industry; Telecommunications Industry; Africa;


    Soltes, Eugene, and Sara Hess. "Mara Group." Harvard Business School Case 114-060, February 2014. (Revised March 2014.)
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