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. How to Launch Your Digital Platform

    Benjamin G. Edelman

    The ubiquity of internet access has caused a sharp rise in the number of businesses offering platforms that connect users for communication or commerce. Entrepreneurs are particularly drawn to these platforms because they create significant value and have modest operating costs, and network effects protect their position once established—users rarely leave a vibrant platform. But these businesses also raise significant start-up challenges. Every platform starts out empty. Platforms need to immediately attract not only many users but multiple types of users. For example, it's not enough that many customers want to book taxis by smartphone. Drivers must also be willing to accept smartphone bookings. Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman has been studying the dynamics of platform businesses and the strategies for launching them for 10 years. In this article he draws on research on dozens of platform sites and products to offer a framework for building a successful platform business. It involves asking five basic questions: (1) Can I attract a large group of users at once? (2) Can I offer stand-alone value to users? (3) How can I build credibility with customers? (4) How should I charge users? (5) Should my platform be compatible with legacy systems?

    Keywords: platforms; entrepreneurship; launch; mobilization strategy; Two-Sided Platforms; Network Effects; Adoption; Entrepreneurship; Information Technology Industry; Advertising Industry; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Transportation Industry; Financial Services Industry;


    Edelman, Benjamin G. "How to Launch Your Digital Platform." Harvard Business Review 93, no. 4 (April 2015): 90–97. View Details
  2. American Well: The DTC Decision

    Elie Ofek and Natalie Kindred

    In late 2013, telehealth company American Well, which developed a digital platform that allowed patients to conduct online medical consultations with physicians, is considering pursuing a direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategy. Founded in 2006, American Well had, to date, primarily sold its solution to health plans, which then provided online care services to their members using their own brand name. But while American Well attracted some of the largest U.S. health insurers as clients, a surprisingly small number of individual members had actually used the online care service. American Well management believed low consumer awareness—the result of insufficient marketing by health plans, among other factors—was hampering uptake of what should be a highly valuable offering for all stakeholders involved. They wondered if a DTC approach, in which American Well would become a consumer brand and market a telehealth service directly to the public, for example through a mobile app, could drive utilization and catapult the business to the next level. If a DTC offering were given the green light, the company had to come up with a coherent marketing plan to launch it and figure out how to manage potential conflicts with existing clients, who might view the move as competing with their own telehealth efforts. Moreover, the move had to be considered in light of other initiatives the company had recently embarked on, such as marketing its platform to pharmacy chains, targeting large employers, and selling kiosks that provided a physical space to conduct online consultations. The case forces students to grapple with the challenges and barriers involved in disrupting an established industry, examine alternative go-to-market strategies and the timing of implementing them, and consider different business models to manage supply and generate revenues. The case also offers a rich analysis of digital marketing issues.

    Keywords: health care; telehealth; telemedicine; American Well; Schoenberg; Boston; Israel; technology; online care; direct-to-consumer; DTC; health insurance; Affordable care act; health care reform; accountable care organizations; strategy; technology adoption; technology change; innovation & entrepreneurship; marketing; digital marketing; Strategy; Competition; Technology; Marketing; Technological Innovation; Technology Adoption; Entrepreneurship; Marketing Strategy; Health Industry; Technology Industry; Boston; Massachusetts; United States; Israel;


    Ofek, Elie, and Natalie Kindred. "American Well: The DTC Decision." Harvard Business School Case 515-032, March 2015. View Details
  3. Bloodbuy

    Richard G. Hamermesh and Michael Norris

    In 2015, Chris Godfrey, founder and CEO of Bloodbuy has to consider the best path to growth for his young company that is attempting to disrupt the blood donation industry.

    Keywords: health care; health care entrepreneurship; Blood donation; Health Care and Treatment; Entrepreneurship; Health Industry; United States;


    Hamermesh, Richard G., and Michael Norris. "Bloodbuy." Harvard Business School Case 815-114, March 2015. View Details
  4. House Money and Entrepreneurship

    Sari Pekkala Kerr, William R. Kerr and Ramana Nanda

    We examine the relationship between house prices and entrepreneurship using micro data from the US Census Bureau. Increases in house prices are often thought to drive entrepreneurship through unlocking the collateral channel for bank loans, but this interpretation is challenged by worries regarding omitted variable biases (e.g., rising local demand) or wealth effects (i.e., that wealthier people are more likely to enter entrepreneurship for reasons other than access to collateral). We construct an empirical environment that utilizes very localized price changes, exploits variations in initial home values across residents in the same zip code, and embeds multiple comparisons (e.g., owners vs. renters, homestead exemption laws by state). For the United States during the 2000-2004 period, the link of home prices to the rate of entrepreneurship is relatively small in economic magnitude. This is despite a focus on a time period that experienced the largest concentration of US home price growth over the last two decades. While collateral plays a role in the entry that we observe, wealth effects appear to be more important.

    Keywords: house prices; mortgages; collateral channel; entrepreneurship; entry; Demography; Mortgages; Entrepreneurship;


    Kerr, Sari Pekkala, William R. Kerr, and Ramana Nanda. "House Money and Entrepreneurship." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-069, February 2015. View Details
  5. Entrepreneurship and the Cost of Experimentation

    Michael Ewens, Ramana Nanda and Matthew Rhodes-Kropf

    We study how technological change impacts the nature of venture-capital backed entrepreneurship in the US, through its effect on the falling cost of experimentation for startup firms. Using a theoretical model and rich data, we are able to both document and provide a framework for understanding the increased prevalence of investors who "spray and pray" - investing a little money in several startups run by teams of young and unproven entrepreneurs, with a lower probability of following-on their investments. Consistent with the model, we find that these patterns to be strongest in industry segments where technological change has led the cost of starting a business to fall most sharply in recent years.

    Keywords: innovation; venture capital; Investing; abandonment option; failure tolerance; Technological Innovation; Venture Capital; Entrepreneurship; Investment;


    Ewens, Michael, Ramana Nanda, and Matthew Rhodes-Kropf. "Entrepreneurship and the Cost of Experimentation." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-070, February 2015. (Revised March 2015.) View Details
  6. Hövding: The Airbag for Cyclists

    Joseph B. Fuller and Emilie Billaud

    In 2012, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, co­founders of the Hövding company, reflect on the evolution of their venture and the way forward. Since 2005, Haupt and Alstin had been working on a new type of bicycle helmet—an "airbag for cyclists". What had begun as a thesis had grown into a seven-year journey of research and development, including raising over $5 million of venture capital. The product had been granted Europe's CE certification in 2011 and had been launched simultaneously in Sweden and Norway. Yet, a year later, the company had still not reached the break­even point. To help them establish a commercialization strategy, the Hövding board had prevailed upon the founders to hire a professional CEO. But surrendering management control was an emotional process for Haupt and Alstin, while the CEO struggled to assert his leadership and build the company's commercial capabilities. Should Haupt and Alstin collaborate with their CEO despite their misgivings or should they step away from the company they had dedicated seven years to building?

    Keywords: Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Transition; Leadership; Conflict Management; Bicycle Industry; Sweden; Europe;


    Fuller, Joseph B., and Emilie Billaud. "Hövding: The Airbag for Cyclists." Harvard Business School Case 315-056, February 2015. View Details
  7. Building an Integrated Biopharma Company: Crucell (A)

    Richard G. Hamermesh, Marianne Van Der Steen and Susan S. Harmeling

    By 2009, Crucell had become the largest biopharma company in the Netherlands and a symbol of national pride. The case traces the evolution of the company from a University spin-off into a fully-integrated company. Crucell's success, particularly in the vaccine space, had begun to attract the attention of much larger pharmaceutical companies. While there was much appeal to working with these companies, these relationships could also challenge Crucell's independence. This issue is highlighted by the decision whether to partner with companies that wanted ownership of 10-20% of Crucell as part of the business development deals.

    Keywords: biotechnology; biopharmacy company; licensing; licensing agreements in biopharmacy; human cell-line technology; vaccine; healthcare innovation; Global health; Partners and Partnerships; Entrepreneurship; Growth and Development Strategy; Biotechnology Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry; Netherlands;


    Hamermesh, Richard G., Marianne Van Der Steen, and Susan S. Harmeling. "Building an Integrated Biopharma Company: Crucell (A)." Harvard Business School Case 815-085, February 2015. View Details
  8. Quincy Apparel (A)

    Thomas R. Eisenmann and Lisa Mazzanti

    Quincy Apparel designs, manufactures and sells work apparel for young professional women that offers the fit and feel of high-end brands at a lower price. In late 2012, Quincy's cofounders are debating how to approach a crucial board meeting. Their seed-stage startup is running low on cash; to survive, they will need more capital, probably in the form of a bridge loan from existing investors, who will attend the board meeting. Quincy's sales have been strong, but due to the company's novel sizing scheme, which provides more measurement dimensions than typical women's clothing, inventory is high and operations are complex. Operational challenges have made it difficult to consistently deliver better fit, and merchandise return rates are high. With more time and capital, the cofounders are confident they can resolve operational problems. But will they be able to persuade investors to provide more capital?

    Keywords: e-commerce; retail; failure; online retail; women's apparel; entrepreneurship; Business Startups; Business Plan; Business Model; Entrepreneurship; Production; Retail Industry; Technology Industry; New York (city, NY);


    Eisenmann, Thomas R., and Lisa Mazzanti. "Quincy Apparel (A)." Harvard Business School Case 815-067, February 2015. View Details
  9. Winnan Metal: Fulfilling the Dream

    William R. Kerr, Jim Sharpe and James Weber

    Neil Kashyap and Neil Lombardo (HBS'08) acquired Winnan Metal, Inc., a metal fabrication shop, after raising a search fund and an 11 month search to fulfill their dreams of becoming business owners. Two weeks after they took control of the company, Winnan's largest customer (60% of company revenues) threatened to take its business elsewhere. One year later, they had regained the respect of their customers and won the trust of their employees to promote a new culture of empowerment and respect. They wondered how to prioritize options to grow the business as they did not want to spread themselves too thin.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; entrepreneurs; entrepreneurial management; turnarounds; bank loan; crisis management; financial analysis; Search Funds; Acquisitions; financial capital needed; management; operations management; Sales; Entrepreneurship; Decision Making; Change Management; Manufacturing Industry; United States; Indiana;


    Kerr, William R., Jim Sharpe, and James Weber. "Winnan Metal: Fulfilling the Dream." Harvard Business School Case 815-104, February 2015. View Details
  10. Entrepreneurial Beacons: The Yale Endowment, Run-ups, and the Growth of Venture Capital

    Rory McDonald, Y. Sekou Bermiss, Benjamin J. Hallen and Emily Cox Pahnke

    This paper investigates the social context of entrepreneurship in organizational sectors. Prior research suggests that firm foundings are driven by collective patterns of activity—that is, by patterns of prior foundings, of support from related markets, and of institutional activism in a given sector. Building on research on social salience and signals, we consider the influence of singular sector-level triggers, which we call entrepreneurial beacons. We argue that the actions or outcomes of salient organizations attract and motivate entrepreneurs, thus increasing the rate of foundings. To test this logic, we examine the impact of the Yale University endowment’s investment choices and of venture-capital-backed IPO run-ups on venture-capital foundings between 1984 and 2011. The results pinpoint the aspects of the social environment that most heavily influence entrepreneurial activity and the dynamics of organizational sectors.

    Keywords: Venture Capital; Organizations; Economic Sectors; Entrepreneurship;


    McDonald, Rory, Y. Sekou Bermiss, Benjamin J. Hallen, and Emily Cox Pahnke. "Entrepreneurial Beacons: The Yale Endowment, Run-ups, and the Growth of Venture Capital." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-066, February 2015. View Details
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