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Education and Tech Entrepreneurship

16 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008 Last revised: 29 Sep 2013

Vivek Wadhwa

Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization, Pratt School of Engineering; Stanford University - Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance

Richard B. Freeman

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Edinburgh - School of Social and Political Studies; Harvard University; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP)

Ben A. Rissing

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Behavioral Policy Science (BPS)

Date Written: May 1, 2008

Abstract

The popular image of American tech entrepreneurs is that they come from elite universities: Some graduate and start companies in their garages; others drop out of college to start their business careers. The dot-com boom reinforced the image of technology CEOs being young and brash. But, even though Bill Gates and Steve Jobs founded two of the world's most successful companies, they are not representative of technology and engineering company founders. Indeed, a larger proportion of tech founders are middle-aged, well-educated in business or technical disciplines, with degrees from a wide assortment of schools. Twice as many U.S.-born tech entrepreneurs start ventures in their fifties as do those in their early twenties, as this paper will show.

We surveyed 652 U.S.-born chief executive officers and heads of product development in 502 engineering and technology companies established from 1995 through 2005. These companies, identified from an existing dataset of corporate records in Dun & Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database, have more than $1 million in sales, twenty or more employees, and company branches with fifty or more employees.

We observed that, like immigrant tech founders, U.S.-born engineering and technology company founders tend to be well-educated. There are, however, significant differences in the types of degrees these entrepreneurs obtain and the time they take to start a company after they graduate. They also tend to be more mobile and are much older than is commonly believed.

Keywords: U.S. born, entrepreneur, key founder, high-tech, start-up, education, Ivy League

JEL Classification: H52, I2, N3, 018

Suggested Citation

Wadhwa, Vivek and Freeman, Richard B. and Rissing, Ben A., Education and Tech Entrepreneurship (May 1, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1127248 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1127248

Vivek Wadhwa (Contact Author)

Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization, Pratt School of Engineering ( email )

Durham, NC 27708
United States

Stanford University - Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance ( email )

Crown Quadrangle 559 Nathan Ab
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

Richard B. Freeman

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-868-3900 (Phone)
617-868-2742 (Fax)

University of Edinburgh - School of Social and Political Studies ( email )

Adam Ferguson Building
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LL
United Kingdom

Harvard University ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-868-3900 (Phone)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

Ben A. Rissing

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Behavioral Policy Science (BPS) ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

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