Wednesday, April 22, 2009


From the email that was sent out yesterday:

You are cordially invited to the dissertation defense seminar of Chuck Eesley, PhD candidate in Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The defense will take place on April 30th from 1-3pm in the Dean's Conference room, E52-4th floor. Complete information from Chuck follows below.

M. Diane Burton, Fred Kayne (1960) Career Development Professor, Associate Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management

Fiona E. Murray, Sarofim Family Career Development Professor, Associate Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management

Edward B. Roberts (Chair), David Sarnoff Professor of the Management of Technology, MIT Sloan School of Management

Essays on Institutions and Pre-founding Experience: Effects for Technology-Based Entrepreneurs in the US and China

This dissertation is composed of three essays. I look at the role of two different but critical factors in shaping entrepreneurial outcomes: individual level career history and the institutional context. My work spans two outcomes in particular: individual decisions to choose high-tech entrepreneurial activities and the strategies and outcomes of the entrepreneurial firms that are established.

The first essay, entitled, “Cutting Your Teeth: Building on the Micro-Foundations for Dynamic Capabilities” with Edward Roberts investigates whether prior founding experience improves subsequent start-up firm performance. We draw on two strands of psychological theory – availability and partition dependence – and tie them together with the idea that variation in managers’ cognitive representations of the competitive landscape drive differences in firm outcomes. The results of the study are consistent with an account where improved cognitive representations form dynamic capabilities and competitive advantage but appear less consistent with passive inheritance of search routines as a source of dynamic capabilities. We examine performance produced by variation in career experience driving differences in psychological biases.

The second essay, “Who has ‘The Right Stuff’? Human Capital, Entrepreneurship and Institutional Change in China” examines a model distinguishing barriers to entry from barriers to growth. It exploits a natural experiment to identify effects on individuals at different locations on a talent distribution. The paper asks whether the 1999 Chinese Constitutional amendment increased entrepreneurship among those individuals with higher (or lower) levels of human capital. The type of institutional environment that results in higher quality entrepreneurs is a question that has not been systematically explored previously. I find that the greatest increase in entrepreneurship in the post-2000 institutional development was among individuals at the top of the talent distribution. The findings suggest that entrepreneurship among high quality individuals is driven less by the relaxation of constraints to entry (which are relatively easy to overcome) and more by constraints to firm growth.

The third essay, “What Should Drive an Innovation Strategy?” takes advantage of the comparable data from the MIT and Tsinghua surveys on individuals with similar educational backgrounds who are starting firms in very similar industries (dominated by electronics and software). The paper asks what drives (or limits) an innovation strategy in firms? This paper develops a theoretical model of the choice of an innovation strategy using a search perspective. The model is of two searches new firms undertake, one for funding and one for profitable technological ideas that affect the choice to innovate rather than imitate. Using this model we examine whether financial constraints or constraints arising from a scarcity of technological ideas have a greater impact on the decisions of entrepreneurs to attempt to commercialize innovations.