Research and teaching

Regional ecologies of entrepreneurship

September 11th, 2017 | Posted by admin in Forthcoming - (0 Comments)

Olav Sorenson

Why do some regions produce more entrepreneurs than others? An ecological lens provides insight into this question: The demography of organizations in a region – particularly the proportion of small and young em- ployers – shapes many aspects of the environment for would-be entrepreneurs: (i) beliefs about the desirability of founding a firm, (ii) opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship and to build the abilities needed to succeed, and (iii) the ease of acquiring critical resources. Births of new industries and the demise of mature ones can therefore catalyze rapid changes in the rates of entrepreneurship that become self-reinforcing.

Journal of Economic Geography, in press

Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson

We argue that social and financial capital have a complementary relationship in fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth. Using panel data on metropolitan areas in the United States, from 1993 to 2002, our analyses reveal that social integration – in the microgeography of residential patterns – moderates the effect of venture capital, with more integrated regions benefitting more from expansions in the supply of financial capital. Our results remain robust to estimation with an instrumental variable to address potential endogeneity in the geography of venture capital. We also find some evidence for a similar effect from business associations. Our findings support the idea that social structure may contribute importantly to regional economic differences.

American Sociological Review, 82 (2017): 770-795

Summarized in Yale Insights

Expand innovation finance via crowdfunding

January 3rd, 2017 | Posted by admin in 2016 - (0 Comments)

Olav Sorenson, Valentina Assenova, Guan-Cheng Li, Jason Boada, and Lee Fleming

Using data on Kickstarter campaigns and venture capital investments from 2009–2015, we explored whether crowdfunding expanded access to financial capital, in the sense of supporting innovation in more geographically diverse regions than venture capital. Over this period, crowdfunding has supported projects in many regions that have attracted little or no venture capital. Within regions, moreover, the evidence suggests that successful crowdfunding campaigns attract future venture capital investments and that they have been doing so at an increasing rate. Crowdfunding therefore appears to be expanding access to capital to a larger pool of innovators.

Science, 354 (2016): 1526-1528

Supplemental Materials

Replication data and analysis files

Olav Sorenson and Michael S. Dahl

We examine the extent to which the gender wage gap stems from dual-earner couples jointly choosing where to live. If couples locate in places better suited for the man’s employment than for the woman’s, the resulting mismatch of women to employers will de- press women’s wages. Examining data from Denmark, our analyses indicate (i) that Danish couples chose locations with higher expected wages for the man than for the woman, (ii) that the better matching of men in couples to local employers could account for up to 36% of the gender wage gap, and (iii) that the greatest asymmetry in the apparent importance of the man’s versus the woman’s potential earnings occurred among couples with pre-school age children and where the male partner had accounted for a larger share of household income before the potential move.

American Sociological Review,81 (2016): 900-920

Podcast on the paper (interviewed by Cristobal Young)

Lee Fleming and Olav Sorenson

This introduction to the special issue on crowdfunding begins by providing some information about the history and nature of the phenomenon. It then summarizes some of the key advantages and disadvantages of crowdfunding for entrepreneurs and for investors, introducing the various articles in the issue that explore these topics in greater depth. It concludes with some speculations regarding the possible future of the industry and its effects on entrepreneurship, innovation, and inequality.

California Management Review, 58 (2016): 5-19


The who, why and how of spinoffs

May 27th, 2014 | Posted by admin in 2014 - (0 Comments)

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Studies have consistently found that entrepreneurs who enter industries in which they have prior experience as employees perform better than others. We nevertheless know relatively little about what accounts for these differences. The presumed explanation has generally been that these entrepreneurs benefit from the knowledge that they gained in their former jobs. But they might also differ from other entrepreneurs on a variety of other dimensions: Preferential access to resources or differing motivations, for example, may account for their decisions to enter known industries instead of new ones. Combining novel data from a representative survey of entrepreneurs in Denmark with a matched employer-employee database of all residents in Denmark, we examined how entrepreneurs with prior industry experience differed from those without and the extent to which these differences could account for the performance premium associated with prior industry experience. We found that those with industry experience came from younger, smaller and more profitable firms, and that they recruited more experienced employees, worked harder and placed less value on having flexible hours. The recruitment of more experienced employees and the greater effort exerted appeared to account for at least some of the performance advantage associated with prior industry experience.

Industrial and Corporate Change, 23 (2014): 661-688

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Entrepreneurs, even more than employees, tend to locate in regions in which they have deep roots. Here, we examine the performance implications of these choices. Whereas one might expect entrepreneurs with deep roots to perform better because of their richer endowments of social capital, they might also perform worse if their location choices rather reflect a preference for spending time with family and friends. We examine this question using comprehensive data on the Danish population. Entrepreneurs’ ventures perform better – survive longer and generate greater cash flows and cumulative profits – when they locate in regions in which they have deep roots (“home” regions). This effect appears substantial, similar in magnitude to the value of having prior experience in the industry entered (i.e. specific human capital).

Management Science, 58 (2012):1059-1071


Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson

Using a panel of U.S. metropolitan areas from 1993 to 2002, we find that an increase in the local supply of venture capital (VC) positively affects (i) the number of firm starts, (ii) employment, and (iii) aggregate income. Our results remain robust to a wide variety of specifications, including ones that address potential endogeneity in the supply of venture capital. The magnitudes of the effects, moreover, imply that venture capital stimulates the creation of more firms than it directly funds. That result appears consistent with either of two mechanisms: One, would-be entrepreneurs that anticipate a future need for financing more likely start firms when the supply of capital expands. Two, companies funded by venture capital may transfer tacit knowledge to their employees thereby enabling spinoffs, and may encourage both their own employees and others to become entrepreneurs through demonstration effects.

Review of Economics and Statistics, 93 (2011): 338-349

The social attachment to place

January 4th, 2011 | Posted by admin in 2010 - (0 Comments)

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Many theories either implicitly or explicitly assume that individuals readily move to locations that improve their financial well being. Other forces, however, offset these tendencies; for example, people often wish to remain close to family and friends. We introduce a methodology for determining how individuals weight these countervailing forces, and estimate how both financial incentives and social factors influence the probability of geographic mobility in the Danish population from 2002 to 2003. Our results suggest that individuals respond to opportunities for higher pay elsewhere, but that their sensitivity to this factor pales in comparison to their preferences for living near family and friends.

Social Forces, 89 (2010): 633-658

Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson

We find that public research funding and venture capital have a complementary relationship in fostering innovation and the creation of new firms. Based on a panel of metropolitan areas in the United States from 1993 to 2002, we find that the positive relationships between government research grants and the rates of patenting and firm formation in a region become more pronounced as the supply of venture capital in that region increases. Our results remain robust to estimation with an instrumental variable to address potential endogeneity in the provision of venture capital. Consistent with perspectives that emphasize the importance of an innovation ecosystem, our results therefore point to a strong interaction between private financial intermediation and public research funding in promoting entrepreneurship and growth.

Research Policy, 39 (2010): 1348-1360