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. Business Groups Exist in Developed Markets Also: Britain Since 1850

    Geoffrey Jones

    Diversified business groups are well-known phenomenon in emerging markets, both today and historically. This is often explained by the prevalence of institutional voids or the nature of government-business relations. It is typically assumed that such groups were much less common in developed economies, and largely disappeared during the twentieth century. This working paper contests this assumption with evidence from Britain between 1850 and the present day. During the nineteenth century merchant houses established business groups with diversified portfolio and pyramidal structures overseas, primarily in developing countries, both colonial and independent. In the domestic economy, large single product firms became the norm, which over time merged into large combines with significant market power. This reflected a business system in which a close relationship between finance and industry was discouraged, but there were few restrictions on the transfer of corporate ownership. Yet large diversified business groups did emerge, which had private or closely held shareholding and substantial international businesses. The working paper argues that diversified business groups added value in mature markets such as Britain. In the domestic economy, Pearson and Virgin created well-managed and performing businesses over long periods. The much-criticized conglomerates of the 1970s-1990s era such as Hanson and BTR were also quite financially successful forms of business enterprise. The demise of many of them appears to owe at least as much to management fads as to serious financial under-performance.

    Keywords: business groups; business history; Economic History; conglomerates; Entrepreneurship; Globalization; Management; Organizations; United Kingdom;


    Jones, Geoffrey. "Business Groups Exist in Developed Markets Also: Britain Since 1850." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-066, November 2015. View Details
  2. Information Frictions and Observable Experience:The New Employer Price Premium in an Online Market

    Christopher Stanton and Catherine Thomas

    Unfamiliar markets are likely to have aspects or features that are learned about via experience. In the global online labor market oDesk, new employers appear uncertain about the value of hiring a worker. In addition, engaging in transactions appears to require high effort for new employers that tapers with usage. As employer experience is publicly observable and workers are differentiated, workers take expected employer uncertainty and effort costs into account and submit wage bids that are 10-percent higher to new employers. A structural model of worker supply and employer demand for inexperienced and experienced employers shows that two-thirds of the 10-percent wage bid premium can be attributed to the higher costs incurred when working for inexperienced employers. The remaining one-third is due to inexperienced employers' uncertainty about market value, which makes their hiring decisions less elastic with respect to wage bids and alters optimal markups. Because employment relationships tend to be short-term, workers' bids do not account for the longer-term benefits in the market from employer learning. A counterfactual analysis shows that offsetting some of the initial wage bid premium by offering lower platform fees to inexperienced employers creates spillovers to future demand and would increase platform profits.

    Keywords: Wages; Market Platforms; Selection and Staffing; Online Technology; Entrepreneurship;


    Stanton, Christopher, and Catherine Thomas. "Information Frictions and Observable Experience:The New Employer Price Premium in an Online Market." Working Paper, November 2015. View Details
  3. Bigbelly

    Mitch Weiss and Christine Snively

    To accelerate Bigbelly's sales growth and its "smart cities" positioning, its CEO planned to shift his company from equipment sales to a subscription service. Jack Kutner hoped to re-position Bigbelly's solar-powered trash compacting stations beyond trash and recycling and use them also to provide public space Wi-Fi, advertising, and urban intelligence sensors. "One year from now we will no longer sell any machines," Kutner planned to tell the company's board of directors. Would they buy his subscription-only pitch? And if they did, would Bigbelly's still-reluctant purchasers?

    Keywords: public entrepreneurship; smart cities; government innovation; Internet of Things; IoT; anything as a service; platform as a service; infrastructure as a service; PaaS; Xaas; Bigbelly; Jack Kutner; B2G; civic innovation; city innovation; government technology; govtech; civic technology; Sales; Entrepreneurship; Sales; Innovation and Invention; Information Technology Industry; Public Administration Industry; Telecommunications Industry; Web Services Industry; Industrial Products Industry; Massachusetts; United States; Boston; Chicago; Philadelphia; New York (city, NY);


    Weiss, Mitch, and Christine Snively. "Bigbelly." Harvard Business School Case 816-005, October 2015. View Details
  4. Facebook: The First Ten Years

    Shane Greenstein, Marco Iansiti and Christine Snively

    Facebook celebrated its ten year anniversary in February 2014. Over the past decade it has grown into the largest social network in the world with one billion users. After filing an IPO in 2012 at a $104 billion valuation (the third largest IPO in U.S. history), the stock price steadily declined, but recovered after the company implemented an effective advertising strategy. Facebook worked to maintain its "hacker ethos" and remain nimble as it matured. The company was worth close to $200 billion. Could this kind of value sustain itself for years to come?

    Keywords: social networks; technology; Facebook; Entrepreneurship; Profit; Open Source Distribution; Social and Collaborative Networks; Competition; Competitive Strategy; Online Technology; Technology Platform; Information Technology Industry;


    Greenstein, Shane, Marco Iansiti, and Christine Snively. "Facebook: The First Ten Years." Harvard Business School Case 616-012, October 2015. (More Info.) View Details
  5. UPower Technologies Inc.

    Joseph B. Lassiter III, William A. Sahlman and Liz Kind

    The UPower founders, Jake DeWitte and Caroline Cochran, were recent graduates from MIT's Nuclear Science and Engineering Department. They chose to attend Palo Alto-based Y Combinator's accelerator program to focus on building a "mini" nuclear reactor that would produce up to ten MWt and could fit in two 40-foot intermodal shipping containers.
    The UPower reactor was designed to serve the need for "off-grid" electric power. These off-grid customers were in remote locations such as mining operations, military bases, Arctic townships or even island nations. While DeWitte and Cochran were ecstatic about the progress they had made and the enthusiastic open-mindedness of Bay Area investors to backing groundbreaking and even potentially contentious "big ideas," they wondered if their investors would have the patience to finance UPower over the long term.

    Keywords: nuclear; nuclear energy; nuclear power; energy; energy markets; renewable energy; new nuclear; entrepreneurial finance; entrepreneurial marketing; Business & government relations; off-grid; Energy; Renewable Energy; Energy Generation; Energy Sources; Entrepreneurship; Marketing; Business and Government Relations; Energy Industry; Utilities Industry; United States;


    Lassiter, Joseph B., III, William A. Sahlman, and Liz Kind. "UPower Technologies Inc." Harvard Business School Case 816-054, October 2015. View Details
  6. Agglomerative Forces and Cluster Shapes

    William R. Kerr and Scott Duke Kominers

    We model spatial clusters of similar firms. Our model highlights how agglomerative forces lead to localized, individual connections among firms, while interaction costs generate a defined distance over which attraction forces operate. Overlapping firm interactions yield agglomeration clusters that are much larger than the underlying agglomerative forces themselves. Empirically, we demonstrate that our model's assumptions are present in the structure of technology and labor flows within Silicon Valley. Our model further identifies how the lengths over which agglomerative forces operate influence the shapes and sizes of industrial clusters; we confirm these predictions using variations across patent technology clusters.

    Keywords: agglomeration; clusters; networks; industrial organization; Silicon Valley; entrepreneurship; Technology Flows; patents; Networks; Technology; Industry Clusters; Entrepreneurship; California;


    Kerr, William R., and Scott Duke Kominers. "Agglomerative Forces and Cluster Shapes." Review of Economics and Statistics 97, no. 4 (October 2015): 877–899. View Details
  7. Crowdfunding as 'Donations': Theory & Evidence

    Kevin J. Boudreau, Lars Bo Jeppesen, Toke Reichstein and Francesco Rullani

    For a wide class of crowdfunding approaches, we argue that the reward structure (for funders) is closer to that of charitable donations to public goods than it is to traditional entrepreneurial finance. Many features of the design of crowdfunding platforms can therefore be understood as attempts to deal with attendant "free-rider" problems in motivating contributions. Reviewing institutional features of today's crowdfunding, we clarify that there are often limits in the extent to which tangible rewards can be used to motivate contributions. Drawing on analogies with charitable donations, we theorize that intangible sources of motivation—(i) direct psychological rewards, (ii) reciprocity and (iii) social interactions—can play a role in entrepreneurial crowdfunding. In our detailed empirical analysis of a representative project we find abundant evidence consistent with this characterization and we proceed to discuss implications for platform design and entrepreneurial funding and unique and defining characteristics of crowdfunding.

    Keywords: Crowdfunding platforms; entrepreneurial finance; free-riding; voluntary contributions to public goods; Online Technology; Entrepreneurship; Social and Collaborative Networks; Finance; Giving and Philanthropy;


    Boudreau, Kevin J., Lars Bo Jeppesen, Toke Reichstein, and Francesco Rullani. "Crowdfunding as 'Donations': Theory & Evidence." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-038, September 2015. View Details
  8. MOD Pizza: A Winning Recipe?

    Boris Groysberg, John D. Vaughan and Matthew Preble

    Scott and Ally Svenson, the founders of MOD Pizza, had to make a number of decisions in planning how to scale their small company. They wanted to grow MOD from 45 stores as of May 2015 to 200 stores by the end of 2016, and while the two believed that MOD could manage this growth from an operational standpoint, they wanted to make sure that MOD's culture was sufficiently strong to survive this rollout. The company had developed a strong culture, and the Svensons did not want MOD's core values and philosophies to be compromised as it rapidly expanded. To that end, they considered what the company needed to do in order to protect its core culture. Should it put rigid safeguards in place or trust that MOD could successfully scale its culture by hiring the right people and helping them develop as employees? The Svensons also discussed the possibility of an IPO at some point in the near future; what would this mean for its ability to stay true to its core values?

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; employees; employee relationship management; selection and staffing; leadership; growth and development strategy; marketing; service delivery; organizational culture; corporate social responsibility and impact; mission and purpose; Entrepreneurship; Employees; Employee Relationship Management; Selection and Staffing; Leadership; Growth and Development Strategy; Marketing; Service Delivery; Organizational Culture; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Mission and Purpose; Service Industry; United States;


    Groysberg, Boris, John D. Vaughan, and Matthew Preble. "MOD Pizza: A Winning Recipe?" Harvard Business School Case 416-004, September 2015. View Details
  9. GovDelivery

    Mitchell Weiss

    Is government the biggest, worst customer in the world? And is that a reason for venture investors to back companies that sell to government or to stay away? It had been seven years since Scott Burns joined his friend Zach Stabenow to get a company called GovDocs off the ground. In that time, they had evolved from a provider of government-mandated labor law posters to the country's largest sender of government-to-citizen emails. GovDelivery, as the company became known, was one of the first companies to move governments into the cloud, one of the first to sell them software as a service (SaaS), and in 2007, the only one with 3 million registered citizens using its platform to receive communications from federal, state, regional, and city governments and public authorities.
    In those seven years, Burns had raised capital from many sources: friends and family, angel investors, strategic partners, banks, and the investment arm of a major family fund. He and Stabenow had also grown the business through operating revenue and by keeping a tight watch on costs. They had to. Because growth capital had come in from almost all corners, except one: major venture firms. Now, with roughly $6 million in annual revenue and projections to double that within three years, Burns was prepping for discussions with half a dozen Tier 1 firms. In doing so, he was anticipating what he thought would be the "elephant in the room." GovDelivery's business-to-government revenue model had been a conversation-stopper with major investors looking at Burns' company and companies like it. What would he tell potential backers?

    Keywords: GovDelivery; public entrepreneurship; B2G; Business-to-Government; Scott Burns; venture capital; Entrepreneurship; Government Administration; Venture Capital; Information Technology Industry; Public Administration Industry; Web Services Industry; Minnesota; United States;


    Weiss, Mitchell. "GovDelivery." Harvard Business School Case 816-020, September 2015. View Details
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