Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Family Background and Motivation

24 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2009  

Vivek Wadhwa

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

Krisztina Holly

University of Southern California

Raj Aggarwal

University of Akron; Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Alex Salkever

Duke University - Pratt School of Engineering

Date Written: July 7, 2009

Abstract

Entrepreneurs are among the most celebrated people in our culture. Celebrity entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, often grace the covers of prominent publications. These company founders and innovators fuel economic growth and give the nation its competitive edge.

However, very little is known today about the backgrounds, life histories, motivations and beliefs of these entrepreneurs. So myths and stereotypes prevail. The commonly held belief is that entrepreneurs are young, lightly-educated, childless unmarried workaholics. They are perceived to come from rich families and graduate from elite colleges.

But is this true?

This research answers some of these questions. This is based on a survey of 549 company founders in 12 high-growth industries.

It finds that most founders came from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds, are well-educated and married with children. The strongest motivation for starting a company was to "build wealth". Other popular motivators included capitalizing on a business idea; the appeal of a startup culture; a desire to own a company; and a lack of interest in working for someone else.

Keywords: entrepreneur,entrepreneurship, company founders, motivation, background

Suggested Citation

Wadhwa, Vivek and Holly, Krisztina and Aggarwal, Raj and Salkever, Alex, Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Family Background and Motivation (July 7, 2009). Kauffman Foundation Small Research Projects Research. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1431263 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1431263

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

Krisztina Holly

University of Southern California ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Raj Aggarwal

University of Akron ( email )

Akron, OH 44325-4803
United States

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland ( email )

East 6th & Superior
Cleveland, OH 44101-1387
United States

Alex Salkever

Duke University - Pratt School of Engineering ( email )

Masters of Engineering Management Program
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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