Entrepreneurship

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. Peter Guber: The “Me” vs. “We” Brand

    Well-known film producer Peter Guber must decide whether to commit to a time-consuming personal project. He is about to sign a contract for a business book in which he will share what he has learned in his long career. At the same time, he is keenly aware of problems and uncertainties affecting Mandalay Entertainment, a privately-owned company in which he is principal. Mandalay produces movies and television content, owns minor league baseball teams, and is pushing into digital content. Mandalay is trying to reinvigorate its core movie and television businesses, maintain growth in the sports business, and be prepared for the opportunity to buy a major league professional sports franchise. Does Guber eliminate all personal projects and stay tightly focused on guiding his company? On the other hand, there may never be a good time to write a book. He also has to consider the potential impact of a book project on his personal brand and the Mandalay company brand.

    Keywords: X:\Greyser\Greyser-recovered\Greyser\Greyser2\Cases\Peter Guber; Leadership; Work-Life Balance; Corporate Strategy; Entrepreneurship; Decision Making; Film Entertainment; Growth and Development Strategy; Sports Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry;

    Citation:

    Greyser, Stephen A., William Ellet, and Nelson Gayton. "Peter Guber: The “Me” vs. “We” Brand." Harvard Business School Case 915-401, August 2014. View Details
  2. Husk Power

    In late 2013, Husk Power Systems found itself falling further and further behind plan. The founding CEO had decided to resign. His co-founder is faced with the decision of quitting his corporate job in the US to head to India and help form a new management team. Husk is an Indian startup founded in 2007 with the goal of global rural electrification. The company has decided to pivot from operating biomass gasification plants towards developing solar microgrids in India and East Africa.

    Keywords: Plant-Based Agribusiness; Business Model; Business Startups; Energy Generation; Renewable Energy; Social Entrepreneurship; Foreign Direct Investment; International Finance; Globalized Markets and Industries; Crime and Corruption; Employee Relationship Management; Independent Innovation and Invention; Employment; Leadership Style; Leading Change; Management Practices and Processes; Management Style; Management Succession; Management Skills; Emerging Markets; Social Psychology; Culture; Business Strategy; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Energy Industry; Green Technology Industry; Utilities Industry; Africa; India; United States;

    Citation:

    Lassiter, Joseph B., III, and Sid Misra. "Husk Power." Harvard Business School Case 815-023. (Revised August 2014.) View Details
  3. Entrepreneurship as Experimentation

    Entrepreneurship research is on the rise but many questions about its fundamental nature still exist. We argue that entrepreneurship is about experimentation: the probabilities of success are low, extremely skewed and unknowable until an investment is made. At a macro level experimentation by new firms underlies the Schumpeterian notion of creative destruction. However, at a micro level investment and continuation decisions are not always made in a competitive Darwinian contest. Instead, a few investors make decisions that are impacted by incentive, agency and coordination problems, often before a new idea even has a chance to compete in a market. We contend that costs and constraints on the ability to experiment alter the type of organizational form surrounding innovation and influence when innovation is more likely to occur. These factors not only govern how much experimentation is undertaken in the economy, but also the trajectory of experimentation, with potentially very deep economic consequences.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; experiments; innovation; Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention;

    Citation:

    Kerr, William R., Ramana Nanda, and Matthew Rhodes-Kropf. "Entrepreneurship as Experimentation." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-005, July 2014. View Details
  4. Entrepreneurship as Experimentation

    Entrepreneurship research is on the rise, but many questions about its fundamental nature still exist. We argue that entrepreneurship is about experimentation: the probabilities of success are low, extremely skewed, and unknowable until an investment is made. At a macro level, experimentation by new firms underlies the Schumpeterian notion of creative destruction. However, at a micro level, investment and continuation decisions are not always made in a competitive Darwinian contest. Instead, a few investors make decisions that are impacted by incentive, agency, and coordination problems, often before a new idea even has a chance to compete in a market. We contend that costs and constraints on the ability to experiment alter the type of organizational form surrounding innovation and influence when innovation is more likely to occur. These factors not only govern how much experimentation is undertaken in the economy, but also the trajectory of experimentation, with potentially very deep economic consequences.

    Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention;

    Citation:

    Kerr, William R., Ramana Nanda, and Matthew Rhodes-Kropf. "Entrepreneurship as Experimentation." Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 3 (Summer 2014): 25–48. View Details
  5. Kathy Giusti and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

    What do you do when your rising professional career is cut short by an unexpected cancer diagnosis? Kathy Giusti shifted careers, built a new organization that transformed how cancer research is done, and now faces the challenge of sustaining the organization and its funding for its newest venture. Since she was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma (MM) in 1996, Giusti had led an effort to better understand and treat the disease. She had co-founded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), helped form the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC), and brought together a diverse body of academics, researchers, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, physicians, and patients to combine their efforts around the disease. The MMRF had helped facilitate clinical trials for promising drugs, sponsored research, and raised a substantial amount of money for these purposes. In 2014, the MMRF was in the midst of its CoMMpass program; a multi-year effort to collect tissue samples from 1,000 patients at key junctures in their disease, sequence these samples to better understand the genetic underpinnings of MM and its many sub-types, and thus enable researchers to study a comprehensive sampling of patients. CoMMpass also had a patient-facing element which allowed the patient community to communicate with one another and with professional moderators. By mid-2014, some 550 patients were enrolled and 85 hospitals were participating. As a non-profit, the MMRF had historically relied on donations to fund its research operations. Giusti wanted to find a way to ensure a reliable revenue stream for the organization and give it greater financial stability. The MMRF had historically given away its resources and knowledge for free in order to speed research; Giusti worried if charging for some of its functions would be at odds with its mission and historical practices. She worked with her executive team to examine potential sources of revenue, and to decide if this was the right thing to do.

    Keywords: leadership; philanthropy; philanthropy funding; entrepreneurship; health care; management styles; management skills; personalized medicine; health care outcomes; cancer; Cancer care in the U.S.; personal care; Leading Change; Social Entrepreneurship; Giving and Philanthropy; Health Care and Treatment; Leadership Style; Management Style; Growth and Development Strategy; Business Strategy; Health; Health Industry; United States; Canada; Spain;

    Citation:

    Hamermesh, Richard G., Joshua D. Margolis, and Matthew G. Preble. "Kathy Giusti and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation." Harvard Business School Case 814-026, June 2014. View Details
  6. Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal

    Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal analyzes the turnaround and reconstruction of Starbucks Coffee Company from 2008 to 2014 as led by CEO and co-founder Howard Schultz. The case offers executives and students an opportunity to examine in depth how Schultz and his team saved Starbucks from near-collapse, by both executing a deep, comprehensive return to its core values and, at the same time, investing in a range of new products, customer experiences and organizational capabilities designed to make the company fit for enduring success in a turbulent global economy. Set against the backdrop of the Great Recession, the case also considers the impact of unprecedented important shifts in consumer spending and confidence as well as new competitive forces on Starbucks' transformation. The case concludes by examining Schultz's own leadership journey, the lessons he learned personally during Starbucks transformation, and how he is using these lessons—within Starbucks and on the national stage—to redefine the roles and responsibilities of a public corporation in the 21st century.

    Based on extensive interviews conducted with Schultz and other Starbucks executives conducted from 2011 to 2014, the case offers a range of vital lessons on leadership, organizational transformation, restructuring, strategy, innovation, entrepreneurial vision, and customer service.

    Keywords: Howard Schultz; Starbucks; transformation; turnaround; Change; Decision Making; Entrepreneurship; Growth and Development; Leadership; Organizations; Problems and Challenges; Risk and Uncertainty; Strategy; Value; Consumer Products Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Retail Industry; North and Central America; Europe; Asia; South America; Middle East; Latin America;

    Citation:

    Koehn, Nancy F., Kelly McNamara, Nora N. Khan, and Elizabeth Legris. "Starbucks Coffee Company: Transformation and Renewal." Harvard Business School Case 314-068, June 2014. View Details
  7. Groupon, Inc.

    Internet coupon site "Groupon" grew revenues rapidly and went public, but struggled to impress investors or operate profitably. Did it have a sustainable business model? Groupon sold coupons called Groupons which purchasers used to acquire goods or services at discount prices from participating merchants. It went public in 2011. Merchants liked Groupons because they paid nothing for advertising through Groupon unless a customer made a purchase. Groupon earned revenue by taking a percentage of every Groupon sold. Groupon sold Groupons by utilizing a large sales force which contacted individual merchants to sign them up. Groupon's sales grew rapidly and exceeded $2.5 billion in 2013. The challenge Groupon faced was earning profits. It spent heavily on marketing to acquire customers, who showed signs of becoming tired of receiving discount offers, and merchants, many of whom found that offering Groupons only brought them unprofitable customers. In an attempt to become profitable, Groupon introduced new products and strategies; however it had yet to succeed. Some observers questioned whether the company could remain viable. Its management had not inspired confidence and it had several conflicts with the SEC and had to restate its financials. In early 2013, Groupon fired its founding CEO and replaced him with co-founder Eric Lefkofsky. Lefkofsky must now guide Groupon forward.

    Keywords: Accounting; Corporate Governance; Entrepreneurship; Financial Management; Financial Reporting; Financial Statements; Organizational Culture; Strategy; Web Services Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Palepu, Krishna G., Blythe J. McGarvie, and James Weber. "Groupon, Inc." Harvard Business School Case 114-038, May 2014. View Details
  8. Political Reservations and Women’s Entrepreneurship in India

    We quantify the link between the timing of state-level implementations of political reservations for women in India with the role of women in India's manufacturing sector. While overall employment of women in manufacturing does not increase after the reforms, we find significant evidence that more women-owned establishments were created in the unorganized/informal sector. These new establishments were concentrated in industries where women entrepreneurs have been traditionally active and the entry was mainly found among household-based establishments. We measure and discuss the extent to which this heightened entrepreneurship is due to channels like greater finance access or heightened inspiration for women entrepreneurs.

    Keywords: women; female; gender; entrepreneurship; political reservations; Development; informal sector; india; South Asia; Entrepreneurship; Gender Characteristics; Manufacturing Industry; India;

    Citation:

    Ghani, Ejaz, William R. Kerr, and Stephen D. O'Connell. "Political Reservations and Women’s Entrepreneurship in India." Journal of Development Economics 108 (May 2014): 138–153. View Details
  9. Firms and the Economics of Skilled Immigration

    Firms play a central role in the selection, sponsorship, and employment of skilled immigrants entering the United States for work through programs like the H-1B visa. This role has not been widely recognized in the literature, and the data to better understand it have only recently become available. This paper discusses the evidence that has been assembled to date in understanding the impact of high-skilled immigration from the perspective of the firm and the open areas that call for more research. Since much of the U.S. immigration process for skilled workers rests in the hands of employer firms, a stronger understanding of these implications is essential for future policy analysis, particularly for issues relating to fostering innovation.

    Keywords: immigration; firms; innovation; entrepreneurship; Selection and Staffing; Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention; Immigration; United States;

    Citation:

    Pekkala Kerr, Sari, William R. Kerr, and William F. Lincoln. "Firms and the Economics of Skilled Immigration." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-102, April 2014. View Details
  10. Making stickK Stick: The Business of Behavioral Economics

    stickK.com, a website that uses behavioral economics to help users achieve their goals, must choose between a direct-to-consumer or business-to-business model. The case includes a discussion of how principles of behavioral economics can be used to influence behavior, and how an understanding of behavioral economics can inform managerial decisions about product adoption and diffusion.

    Keywords: Behavioral economics; behavior change; B2B vs. B2C; human resource management; marketing of innovations; health & wellness; weight loss; charitable giving; Marketing; Consumer Behavior; Entrepreneurship; Internet; Health; Business Model; Sales; Human Resources; Health Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    John, Leslie, Michael Norton, and Michael Norris. "Making stickK Stick: The Business of Behavioral Economics." Harvard Business School Case 514-019, April 2014. View Details
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