This summer has been very productive for me, involving a lot of research and travel work. Particularly, I have been pleasantly surprised to win the Heizer award from the Entrepreneurship division of the Academy of Management. It is a great honor and promise for the future (not to say responsibility) as this award makes one part of a select researchers’ club, joining other prominent scholars such as William Gartner, Patricia McDougall, Harry Sapienza, Ron Mitchell, Gary Dushnitsky, Denis Gregoire, or Nathan Furr, who, among several others, won the award for the dissertation in their time. I have also learnt a lot more about the Academy this year, due to the doctoral consortium for the junior faculty, kindly (and well) organized by Kim Eddleston and Franz Kellermanns, and especially while reading the book edited by Ron Mitchell about “Research Excellence”.
Below is the picture immortalizing myself with Skip Heizer and his wife Lynn, receiving the award at the AOM conference in Philadelphia.
I also learnt more about the history of venture capital as Ned Heizer (1929-2009) was actually one of the founders of the industry in Chicago, funding several startups in the 1960ies and 1970ies, including Federal Express and Intel, while unfortunately saying “no” to Steve Jobs’ fledgling Apple. Interestingly, Ned Heizer’s background was very diverse. He majored in chemical engineering as an undergraduate, then got a law degree from Yale, worked for Arthur Andersen to become a certified public accountant, then for Kidder Peabody & co in investment banking, and then at Booz Allen and Hamilton to finish off with management consulting. This experience apparently equipped him very well for his ambitions as a venture capitalist thereafter. The importance of broad experience in Ned Heizer’s case relates very nicely to the findings of my dissertation, where I explain how the diversity of founders’ experience, in combination with power to execute, enables them to innovate business models. Based on a single observation in this case, for Ned Heizer diversity of experience also helped to succeed in venture capital.
Although the prescription might be clear – get a lot of diverse experience before trying to innovate when starting a business (or funding one), things are not as straightforward unfortunately. To be successful in our society, there are strong pressures not to venture outside one’s field of expertise during one’s career, which might proceed in different firms, but often constrained to one or two industries. Thus, entrepreneurs with diverse experiences from various distinct fields such as finance, chemistry, healthcare, technology, accounting, or cultural industries combined are rather an exception than the rule. Despite finishing my dissertation, I continue to find this topic fascinating and would love to learn more about it in the future.