Frontiers of Entrepreneurship

Are Emerging Technologies a Threat or an Opportunity for Entrepreneurs?

New technologies continue to reshape and disrupt the competitive landscape for new entrepreneurial firms. But how can new firms leverage technological innovation to gain a competitive advantage?

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Do Organizations Really Value and reward Intrapreneurship?

Though high-profile "unicorns" and other prominent startups receive great attention, most innovation occurs within existing large companies. Having employees or business units behaving as entrepreneurs within a large organization is often called "intrapreneurship," and can be a business strategy to develop innovative products or upgrade existing business processes. What are the benefits of this approach, and how can organizations looking to foster innovation promote intrapreneurship? How should firms balance investing in innovation with continuing to operate core business areas?

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Is Social Entrepreneurship Sustainable?

As more investors begin to use environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria for investment decisions, tensions have developed in the space. Is impact investing concessionary capital? What are the relevant mechanisms for delivering impact? What is responsible for the shifting priorities of investors in this space? What are challenges to scaling social entrepreneurship? This session brought together four panelists from different parts of the chain of capital to discuss these issues.

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Has the Jobs Act of 2012 Helped Start-Ups?

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012 created unprecedented opportunities for small businesses to raise capital. Among other things, the act lifted the ban on general solicitation, enabled equity crowdfunding and increased limits on the shareholders of record in private companies. Yet we know little about whether these changes have resulted in job creation, innovation and increased entrepreneurship. Additionally, what changes could be made to the JOBS Act that would augment its effectiveness?

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Has Patent Policy Kept Pace with Innovation?

Panel chair Alan Marco began the session by providing examples of recent changes to the U.S. patent system that have important potential ramifications for the entrepreneurial landscape. In particular, he mentioned the America Invents Act, signed by President Obama in 2011, which switched the patent system from “first to invent” to “first to file.” The law became effective in March of 2013. Marco continued to lay out a list of other issues for the panelists to discuss, including recent Supreme Court decisions that have brought into question the subject matter eligible for patenting, potentially weakening patent protection. Marco then proceeded to place these developments in the context of recent economic and technological changes which present additional challenges for innovation and entrepreneurship. Specific examples that he brought up included innovation in artificial intelligence, trade policies and the push for lower prescription drug prices.

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Scaling through the ‘Valley of Death’

The session objective was to understand how startups should balance growth and survival. New companies face a perilous path as they shift from demonstrating product viability to building a sustainable business model. The transition typically requires additional funding, new management expertise, additional organizational structure and often a shift in culture. Many companies stall or fail at this stage of growth. This session examined what we know, and would like to know, about the scaling of successful startups.

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Entrepreneurship in Regulated Markets: Burden or Boon?

Regulatory barriers to entry can distort markets and limit innovation, but also result in breakthrough business models facing less competition. Examples include fintech, medtech and edtech. This session examined the challenges specific to entrepreneurship and innovation in regulated industries.

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Financing Start-Ups: Who Are the Best Providers of Start-Up and Early Stage Capital?

From angel investors to accelerators, the profile of startup investors has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Startups face a variety of funding sources, each with different incentives and varying levels of mentorship and inputs provided to the portfolio ventures. How should entrepreneurs strategically choose the best funding option for their ventures? How can each type of investor contribute to the entrepreneurship ecosystem?

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Is the Startup Compensation Model Broken?

Compared to more established firms, startups are more likely to compensate through equity rather than salary compensation. But is this model working, with companies staying private longer? Startups have to work harder to hire top talent. With unemployment at a record low, it’s tough for businesses – especially young, small firms – to hire. What else besides equity is in the mix when recruiting talent? This session explored these questions.

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Entrepreneurship in Underinvested Areas

Brett Palmer opened the session by recognizing that within the discussion surrounding entrepreneurship, there are some sectors that are being left out of the conversation. Aron Betru explained how Milken institute has been addressing this issue under the larger umbrella of wealth inequality in the U.S., specifically bringing to attention disproportional growth opportunities among different communities. In particular, Betru explained that despite the consecutive months of job growth within the U.S., there has actually been a 91 percent drop in access to capital for the African American community during the same period. Betru added that the flow of capital is not the end goal, but rather a means to achieve the vision of economic security for individuals and communities.

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How Can the Private Sector Promote More Diverse Entrepreneurs and Investors?

A recent report documents that only 14 percent of U.S. venture partners are women and only six percent are black or Hispanic. Data for VC portfolio companies and other startups reveals similar statistics. While these percentages are a slight improvement over prior years, they still document substantial under-representation. As more importance is placed on the topic of representation, how can the private sector develop, adopt and implement strategies, as well as official policies, to promote more diverse entrepreneurs and investors?

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