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Researching Entrepreneurship

Raghav Lal, head of Global Small Business at Visa Inc., describes Visa's retail electronic payments network -- the world's largest.

Two hundred scholars from 30 countries congregated at the School of Business for a three-day global entrepreneurship conference that spotlighted research related to business creation.  The conference ran a broad spectrum, from detailed information on databases available to scholars to presentations on how government policies – in the United States and Europe – help and hinder business startups.

The event was organized by the International Council for Small Business and the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, both of which are housed at GWSB.

“A major engine all across this country is the partnership between business and academia,” said Leo Chalupa, GW’s vice president for research, at the conference’s opening session Oct. 6.  He noted that universities can be important partners in “entrepreneurship, innovation and how to spur new business.”

Conference goers said the event was particularly timely in light of the global recession and new data revealing how it differs from past financial crises.  Research presented at the conference showed that, despite what politicians say, entrepreneurs are not driving economic recovery.

The first day of the gathering was dedicated to databases – public and private, U.S. and international.  Officials from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau described the information their offices collect and how it can be useful to researchers.  “The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor,” which is the single largest study of entrepreneurial activity in the world, was discussed.  Representatives from the International Finance Corporation talked about the IFC’s Enterprise Survey and its country indicators database.

GWSB Research Professor Paul Reynolds, who did a presentation on the U.S. Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics, said research on entrepreneurship is hampered by the absence of a definition of when a business has been “created.”  There are no criteria to determine when someone is engaged in serious entrepreneurial activity, or is merely “a cocktail party entrepreneur” who talks about starting a firm but does not take serious action.

Alicia Robb, senior research fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, explained the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (KIEA), a database that creates measures of entrepreneurial activity, both incorporated and unincorporated ventures.  The database allows researchers to breakout characteristics of the business owners – including gender, race, education, marital status, family income, age and geographic location.

Robb cited KIEA data indicating that only 25 percent of startups create direct jobs for anyone other than their owners, fewer new firms are launching, startup failure is common and new firms are small.  “Smaller business is exactly what we don’t need,” she said.

Other conference highlights included:

  • Raghav Lal, head of Global Small Business at Visa Inc., described Visa’s retail electronic payments network – the world’s largest – and noted that the biggest business-killer for small and medium-sized firms is poor cash flow.
  • Consultant Don Walls, of Walls & Associates, explained how he converted Dun & Bradstreet’s archived business data from 1990-2007 into a time-series database of business creation, the National Establishment Times Series (NETS).
  • A session at the World Bank featuring presentations by the bank’s Development Data Group, detailing its 18-month-old Open Data Initiative.  “People use our data to create and adapt in ways we would never have thought,” said Neil Fantom, manager of the Development Data Group.


Posted by gwsb on October 11, 2011 | Filed under: GWSB News.

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The members of the MBA Admissions team contribute to the blog with postings about recruitment tours, events, interviews with current students, and insights about the admissions process. The team is composed of:

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