The University and the Start-Up: Lessons from the Past Two Decades

Posted: 17 Nov 2009

See all articles by Joshua Y. Lerner

Joshua Y. Lerner

Duke University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2005


The purpose of this study is to offer key lessons regarding the effective management of university-based spinoffs which, as incidents at such prestigious schools as Boston University and the University of Illinois indicate, can create serious disruptions if improperly managed. These lessons are based on a wide range of sources, including traditional academic research, case studies of specific programs, service on advisory panels, and special projects designed to meet the needs of particular organizations. The first lesson is that starting new ventures based on university technology is difficult, although many academic entrepreneurs and university administrators remain confident.The second lesson is that new firms rarely generate enormous wealth for academic institutions.The third lesson is that directly financing firms through internal venture capital funds is unlikely to be a successful strategy for universities.Universities can, however, add considerable value to young firms that faculty begin.Finally, old frameworks about conflicts-of-interest must be rethought in light of the special needs of startups. (SAA)

Keywords: Startups, Venture capital, Conflicts of interest, Management techniques, University spinouts, University-firm relations, Value maximization

Suggested Citation

Lerner, Joshua Y., The University and the Start-Up: Lessons from the Past Two Decades (2005). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

Joshua Y. Lerner (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Political Science ( email )

140 Science Drive (Gross Hall), 2nd floor
Duke University Mailcode: 90204
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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