2015 - 2019

Project Director: Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D.

Funded by: Anonymous Funding Source

Project Overview:

This project investigated the demographic characteristics and personality traits of founders who are responsible for creating new U.S. firms and generating jobs. The project relied on both large national data sets as well as experimental evidence from CIC, Cambridge Innovation Center, a co-working space popular among startups with locations across the United States.

Findings:

Data from this study was used in a paper published in PNAS. Researchers analyzed the risk tolerance and personality traits of startup founders, non-founder CEOs, employee inventors, and other employees. They found that in self-reports and in their actions (whether or not they chose to enter a lottery over receiving a guaranteed, but smaller, incentive), entrepreneurs exhibited the highest risk tolerance, followed by non-founder CEOs, then employee inventors. Entrepreneurs also exhibited the highest rates of "self-efficacy" or one's belief in their ability to complete tasks. In this study, researchers noted that while entrepreneurs exhibited the highest risk tolerance, the research did not investigate whether risk tolerance translated into success for the firm.

Another published paper based on this research project investigated how different populations at CIC used networking opportunities. Survey responses from over 1,000 people showed that immigrants valued networking capabilities in CIC more than those born in the U.S., and the networks developed by immigrants at CIC tended to be larger.

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