Brett LoGiurato: What originally drew you to your area of research? And how did you come to Wharton?
Ethan Mollick: I came here through a little bit of a roundabout path. I started off as a consultant, and then with a college roommate launched a startup company in the early days of the internet. We invented the pay wall. I literally made every mistake possible in the company. It was ultimately successful, but I basically did everything wrong. So, I thought, “I’m going to go get an MBA and figure out how to be an entrepreneur.”
I went to MIT to get an MBA, and I realized nobody really knew the answers. I decided I’ll figure it out or help figure it out, so I got a Ph.D. That’s been my mission ever since: figuring out how to make entrepreneurship and innovation more science-driven, more accessible.
LoGiurato: You wrote this book to dispel some of the myths of entrepreneurship. What are some of the most common assumptions that aspiring entrepreneurs get wrong?
Mollick: Entrepreneurship has historically been full of myths because we haven’t had data. People have been making decisions based on gut feel and intuition and trying to pattern match. Some of the patterns they’ve been matching have been those of very successful past founders. But the problem is, those successful past founders tend to look very similar to each other. They’re often male, young, college dropouts with a technical background. Think Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. The research shows that that is not the best or only model to be a founder. As a result, people who might otherwise enter entrepreneurship are [discouraged] because they look at founders that are famous and that they see in the movies, and they don’t resemble those people. They think they can’t be founders. But the evidence shows that that’s not right at all.
For details: https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/mollick-unicorns-shadow/?utm_source=kw_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2020-07-21