This fall, Temple University further strengthened its commitment to entrepreneurship education across all disciplines with the establishment of the Temple University Entrepreneurship Academy (TUEA).
The Academy is geared toward the incorporation of entrepreneurship education in the coursework delivered by faculty members throughout all of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges, and the creation of seminars and services available to students, faculty, and staff at Temple, and enhanced offerings and participation in entrepreneurial activities.
Alan B. Kerzner joined the faculty at Temple’s Fox School of Business as an Assistant Professor of Practice within the Department of Strategic Management. He also will serve as the Director of TUEA, a role in which he will work with other schools and colleges at Temple to facilitate the spread of entrepreneurial practice across the university.
“Entrepreneurial thinking is not present solely within business schools. It can be found throughout a university, particularly one as dynamic as Temple,” Kerzner said. “Our objective is to work with faculty on the implementation of entrepreneurship education across the university, and with students to foster their enthusiasm for innovation.”
At Temple University, entrepreneurship continues to flourish.
Temple is one of five colleges and universities in the United States to have earned top-10 rankings for both undergraduate- and graduate-level entrepreneurship programs, according to a 2015 publication from The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. Temple’s undergraduate Entrepreneurship program received a No. 8 national ranking, and its graduate program earned a No. 10 ranking.
Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) organized its 18th annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl (BYOBB), a university-wide business plan competition held in April 2015 and catering to students, faculty, staff, and alumni. BYOBB makes available nearly $700,000 in cash prizes and related products and professional services, earning it a reputation as one of the nation’s most-lucrative business plan competitions, according to Entrepreneur.
Temple also offers access to the Small Business Development Center, which, for the 2015-16 academic year, consulted with 861 entrepreneurs, resulting in the creation of nearly 450 jobs. The SBDC assisted pre-venture clients in the generation of 46 new businesses in the Philadelphia area, with 60 percent of the clients served originating in Philadelphia.
“There is no better time to begin your entrepreneurial journey than when you are a university student,” said Ellen Weber, IEI’s Executive Director. “Here at Temple, entrepreneurship serves as an inspiration to our students, who can test their ideas in classes or in hands-on workshops. At their fingertips, students have a built-in audience through which to test product and market fit as they prepare to launch, and we provide access to highly experienced mentors who can deliver direction, and funding through BYOBB, our annual Innovative Idea Competition, and the Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures, an independent organization that assists emerging technology-based companies in their effort to build sustainable businesses.”
“There are pockets of entrepreneurial activity throughout Temple,” said Dr. Robert McNamee, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Fox School. “With the Entrepreneurship Academy, we’re working to create a community of practice across the university.”
According to Kerzner, TUEA is poised to immediately deliver a suite of educational seminars, sessions, and competitions geared toward Temple’s entrepreneurs. They will build upon the Academy’s inaugural workshop, “Doing Well While Doing Good,” which was offered in April 2015 and centered on social entrepreneurship.
This fall, TUEA has plans to offer educational sessions on the establishment successful freelance businesses; the development of prototypes; and the demystification of technology, among others, Kerzner said. The Academy also will welcome a series of Tyler School of Art alumni who have found success in careers as independent entrepreneurs, to speak to current art students.
The future plan is to expand TUEA into new space on the first floor of the 1810 building on Liacouras Walk, to make all of the entrepreneurial services more readily available to the university community.
Lastly, Kerzner said, TUEA has plans to create an on-campus retail space in a heavy-traffic area. The space, he said, will allow student entrepreneurs “a place to sell their products, as they explore the developmental stages, and receive customer feedback.”
“For this space, think retail store meets entrepreneurship testing lab,” Kerzner said. “It will be managed and staffed by students, and feature kiosks designed by students from the Tyler School of Art.
“The establishment of TUEA, and our abundant plans for this academic year, will take Temple’s commitment to entrepreneurship to the next level.”
A half-dozen students are blurring the line between a place of residence and a place of business.
A pot of coffee is brewing on the stove as the housemates amble through the living room. On this morning, one is eating homemade parfait out of a Tupperware container, while another texts feverishly from the edge of the couch. Two others are gathered near the kitchen table discussing their company, through which their friendship and careers intersect.
In all, six 20-somethings from Temple University inhabit a house near 19th and Diamond streets in North Philadelphia. Five currently live there. The sixth, who used to call the two-story townhouse his home, reports there daily for work.
The housemates refer to the house constantly by its street number. But it could just as well be called the House of Entrepreneurs.
It’s where eight businesses are operated between these six guys – three with Temple degrees, and three more set to graduate within the next two years. A number of those businesses are thriving and profitable. Others are either designated as not-for-profit, or are simply too new to turn a profit – at least for now.
“Money isn’t the priority at the moment,” said Jesse DiLaura, FOX ’16. “We’ve prioritized community, learning, and supporting one another over solidified careers.”
DiLaura would know this better than most. One of the house’s current residents, the rising senior switched majors at the Fox School of Business – from Risk Management, which boasts a 100-percent job-placement rate for its graduating students, to pursue a degree in Entrepreneurship.
While The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine rank Temple’s undergraduate- and graduate-level degree programs in Entrepreneurship among the top-10 nationally, career paths for budding entrepreneurs aren’t so easily defined. That’s why these friends cull from their cumulative expertise to make their dreams more of a reality.
“If we need photography for a website, a social-media campaign, or for Kickstarter, we have somebody for that,” said Justin Swallow, TFMA ‘16. “If we need a videographer, a graphic designer, someone with experience writing business plans or working to secure seed funding, chances are someone in the house has done it already and can help you out.”
DiLaura and Swallow are two of the originals at the house. They moved in more than two years ago with Beau Rosario, TFMA ’14, who with the help of his brother, Clint, as well as Swallow and others operates a successful multimedia business out of the house’s basement. Brandon Study, FOX ’17, Tim Mounsey, FOX ’16, and Sean Hawkins, SMC ’18, live in the house, too.
The friends are a melting pot of skills, opinions, and experiences.
Over the summer, Study and DiLaura attended a Philadelphia-based pitch competition, where DiLaura won $500 and received personal congratulations from FUBU clothing-line founder Daymond John, one of the billionaire investors who appears on “Shark Tank.” At the event, John later fielded Twitter questions, one of which came from Study. He tossed a shirt from his fledgling clothing line onto the stage, where John picked it up and gave his approval for the design and concept behind Study’s business.
Those moments are not uncommon for these housemates.
From time to time, the guys within the house will develop business-plan models, then gather his housemates and curate his idea among them as though he’s pitching to John and the rest of the “Shark Tank” panel. More often than not, however, the friends discuss their separate ventures over informal meetings – in meet-ups over lunch, while squeezing in a video-game break to cut the tension from work, or on after-hours rides through the neighborhood on their longboards.
And friendship, they all agreed, does not get in the way of candor.
“We all accept and seek each other out for feedback,” Hawkins said. “We are all radically different people and we embrace that any comment is coming from a place of positivity. That’s why, while living here, it’s very easy to be inspired by one another.”
A stroll through the home, at 19th and Diamond, offers a glimpse of their collective creativity. The living-room walls are littered with samples of their work: Photography portraits of their friends, cropped tightly to show only their faces. Posterboards of past business-plan events that they have either hatched, competed in, or won. Discarded Philadelphia streetsigns rigged with lightbulbs, and converted into impromptu lighting fixtures.
Creativity, like entrepreneurship, is a thread that binds these students.
“The collective drive of this house and the diversity of projects being undertaken at any given time provides us with a depth of insight and experience that I think we all apply in our projects and businesses,” said Mounsey. “The collaboration that goes on here not only fuels professional success, but it fuels our personal success.”
“It’s safe to assume we talk a lot about our work, but we talk about our lives, too,” added Study. “It’s not just about forwarding our businesses; it’s about forwarding our friendships.”
Ellen Weber can attest to the value afforded by entrepreneurial collaborative space. As the executive director of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), Weber has spent most of her professional career working in the areas of entrepreneurship, investing, start-ups, and consulting.
With these students, Weber sees “a group that gives as much as it takes.”
“When entrepreneurs occupy collaborative, co-working spaces, they push one another, share ideas, and make one another better,” Weber said. “You can see the energy magnifying within entrepreneurs when they have mentorship opportunities like this. And for these specific students, they not only eat, sleep, and breathe entrepreneurship; they’re living it, too. It’s 24/7 for them, and it’s pretty remarkable.”
Like their academic majors, their business ventures are just as unique.
DiLaura, who will graduate from Fox in January, founded RepairU. The company offers iPhone and iPad repair services for college students by college students at discounted rates. He hopes to operate it out of a food cart near Temple’s Bell Tower by the start of the academic year.
Rosario, who in 2014 graduated from Temple’s School of Theater, Film and Media Arts (TFMA), got his start as a provider of wedding photography, videography, and disc jockey services. He turned Beau Rosario Photography into Philamedia, a commercial media provider. His brother Clint, who lived at the house during his breaks from Eastern University, is the company’s sound engineer. And Swallow, who graduated from TFMA in May, is Philamedia’s commercial videographer.
“We’ve grown from getting free furniture for doing a photoshoot at Kardon/Atlantic (Apartments at Temple) to now generating ads for SEPTA Silverliner, the Mann, the Philly Pops, and many more,” said Beau.
While Swallow is employed by Philamedia, he supports his housemates’ ventures. A graphic designer, Swallow has provided input and collateral for “pretty much every business that’s ever come through here,” DiLaura said.
Study, who will graduate in May, twice considered art school before pursuing an Entrepreneurship degree from the Fox School. He started a non-profit in 2015 called Into The Nations, to help artisans in developing countries develop sustainable business models. And in July, he launched a Kickstarter campaign for Understand Your Brand, an apparel company that utilizes all-natural dyes and an ethically responsible, no-waste factory in Cambodia that pays its employees above the living wage.
“We were learning about the state of the apparel business in this class at Fox, and I wondered, ‘Why is no one else panicking about this like me?’” Study said. “It started as a social-awareness campaign for the class, and it’s become so much more.”
Mounsey, who earned his Entrepreneurship degree in 2016, is a business development analyst by day with Philadelphia-based private equity firm, LLR Partners. He’s also founded a Temple-wide innovation festival, What IF, which held its inaugural events in April. Back in 2015, Mounsey also paired with Study to develop Cycle Clothing Company, a zero-waste lifestyle apparel company which became the foundation for Study’s Understand Your Brand Kickstarter. Their venture placed third in the social-impact track of Temple’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl, which is considered one of the nation’s most-lucrative college business plan competitions, according to Entrepreneur magazine.
“The success and marketing effort of What IF wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration of our house,” Mounsey said. “Every design, marketing flyer, and video script was created in collaboration of at least two to three house members. It was the perfect opportunity for all of us to combine our expertise.”
Lastly, there’s Hawkins, who will graduate in 2018 with a Communication Studies degree from the School of Media and Communication. He’s presently in the pilot phase of launching a branding company, Big Boi Studios, and a related YouTube channel.
Six friends. Eight businesses. One house.
“If you would have asked me years ago about my college experience, I never could have envisioned it would look anything like this,” Rosario said, “and I hope I’m still doing something like this, and with these same guys, in 10 or 20 years.”
Do ethical entrepreneurs earn more?
“Yes,” said Bernard “Bernie” Marcus, answering the question that also served as the title of his lecture.
The co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot, Marcus visited Temple University’s Fox School of Business Feb. 9 as the inaugural Warren V. “Pete” Musser Visiting Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Established in 2015, the Musser Professorship is an endowed term professorship filled by experienced and well-known practitioners who are interested in spending a term at the Fox School to mentor students in the early stages of their ventures.
A businessman and philanthropist, Marcus co-founded The Home Depot after he and coworker Arthur Blank lost their jobs with a California hardware store. The Home Depot went public in 1981 and has since become a billion-dollar, home-improvement empire. Marcus retired in 2001 to focus on philanthropy.
“Ethics are critically important,” Marcus told the standing-room only crowd at Alter Hall. “Everyone has that desperate moment in business when someone tries to break your conscience.”
Marcus’ “desperate moment” came when, at age 49 and unemployed, he decided to open The Home Depot. The former medical student hadn’t encountered the sometimes-unprincipled and amoral dealings that one can encounter with owning a business. Undaunted, Marcus refused to work with those who were dishonest and resolved that his business wouldn’t be about cutting corners or taking bribes.
“The Home Depot is the fastest-growing retail company in history, and it’s ethical in every way,” Marcus said.
Marcus elaborated. When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012, The Home Depot opened its doors to all customers who had been located in the hurricane’s path, offering supplies to them free of charge. A year later, when a tornado ravaged Moore, Okla., Marcus said The Home Depot took note of the area’s numerous displaced pets and set up cages in its stores.
“We became a pet store,” Marcus said, of the nearly three weeks during which The Home Depot housed the lost animals. “We did that then, and we’ll do it today. That’s ethics. That’s how you treat people and get the culture at The Home Depot.”
Leveraging his wealth, Marcus supports autism advocacy group Autism Speaks, and supports veterans employed by The Home Depot and their families employed. For Marcus, the purpose of the company’s good deeds is not to garner media attention. Running a business with an end game of fame or fortune, he said, simply is not ethical.
In addition to its support of veterans, The Home Depot seeks to instill in each of its employees — from store managers to new hires — a sense of pride, charity and professional drive. After all, Marcus said, he wouldn’t be in the position he is today without the men and women who worked nights and weekends for the company he founded.
“People don’t have to be recognized for doing their jobs, but when they do something exceptional, you congratulate them,” Marcus said.
Similar to Marcus, entrepreneurship is a pillar at the Fox School of Business. Its undergraduate- and graduate-level Entrepreneurship programs are nationally ranked Nos. 8 and 10, respectively, by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. Fox is also one of only five schools nationally to attain two top-10 rankings. And Fox’s Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship degree program offers a course in Ethical Entrepreneurship.
For the students in attendance, Marcus discouraged them against compromising their values or giving up.
“Creative philanthropy is about hanging onto an idea, pursuing it, and not letting it get you down,” Marcus said. “You will win.”
Innovation in the United States is not lacking. It’s just that patents are being registered in less-likely locales, according to researchers from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
The findings are part of an ongoing research initiative spearheaded by Dr. Ram Mudambi, the Frank M. Speakman Professor of Strategic Management.
The umbrella project is dubbed iBEGIN, or International Business, Economic Geography and Innovation. A segment of the project explores innovation hubs in the United States, undertaking detailed analyses of more than 900 metropolitan areas in the U.S. In one of the first published outcomes of this research effort, Mudambi and his team examined the evolution of Detroit, a mainstay of the global automotive industry for over a century. While Detroit, a downtrodden city, continues to experience manufacturing decline, it is doing well as an innovation center, he said.
“The beauty of innovation is that it never stops,” Mudambi said. “In 1960, the U.S. was the richest country in the world, and Detroit was its richest city. And while the city has been in a continuous state of decline, we found that Detroit’s innovation numbers are very healthy.”
iBEGIN researchers define innovation through patent output, and they say Detroit’s patent output since 1975 has grown at a rate of almost twice the U.S. average. Detroit’s innovative resilience, Mudambi said, is due to its continuing centrality in global innovation networks in the automotive industry. It has maintained this centrality through connectedness to other worldwide centers of excellence in this industry, such as Germany and Japan. Its innovative links to Germany have been rising steadily over the last three decades, while its association with Japan began more recently, but also shows a steep upward trajectory.
Their research also unearthed a clearer picture of the shifting lines of American innovation. Today, Mudambi said, the Sun Belt features the country’s leading innovation hubs like San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Austin, Texas. Though the more traditional centers of innovation excellence in the Rust Belt cities have generally maintained healthy rates of innovation output, they have seen their shares of national innovative output decline. These include cities like New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago.
“In the 19th century and for most of the 20th century, the innovation hotspots were co-located with centers of manufacturing mass production,” Mudambi said. “These were concentrated in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest. That’s not the case anymore. We’re seeing the lion’s share of patents being registered in regions dominated by high-knowledge industries. These industries create mainly white-collar positions for people with a bachelor’s degree, at minimum.
“However, what Detroit’s innovative success says about economies everywhere is that the roots of innovation are very deep. Policymakers spend a lot of time worrying about manufacturing. But manufacturing can be very ephemeral and firms often relocate manufacturing plants with very little notice. Innovation is more deeply rooted and, once an innovation center roots itself in an area, it’s much more likely to stick.”
Mudambi said the ongoing iBEGIN research initiative is a collaborative effort, with professionals in centers around the world, including: Denmark’s Copenhagen Business School, Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and University of Venice Ca Foscari, the Indian School of Business, and many others.
In addition to studying innovation in American cities, iBEGIN has ongoing research exploring other contexts. These include country contexts like China, India, Brazil, Portugal, Greece and Korea as well as specialized industry contexts like automobiles, renewable energy and pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Seok-Woo Kwon, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, has been appointed to a three-year term as a member of the entrepreneurship research committee of the Academy of Management (AOM).
Founded in 1936, the AOM is the preeminent professional association for management and organization scholars. Its membership spans 20,000 members in 115 countries.
“The organization sponsors many interesting sessions that can enable and advance future research. I am very honored to be invited to the group,” Kwon said of the opportunity.
In 2012, Kwon received the Academy of Management Review’s 2012 Decade Award, one of the discipline’s most-prestigious awards, which recognizes the most-influential AMR research paper of the last 10 years, for his 2002 work, “Social Capital: Prospects for a New Concept.”
Kwon, who joined the Fox School of Business in 2012, instructs Organizations and Management Theory, a core course at the PhD level, and teaches Managing Knowledge Networks at the MBA level. Prior to his arrival at Temple, Kwon earned his PhD in Management and Organization from the University of Southern California, where he also attained his Master’s degree in Communication Management from the university’s Annenberg School for Communication. Previously, Kwon received his Master’s in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and his Bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology from the University of Michigan.
Entrepreneur magazine ranked the graduate programs at Temple University’s Fox School of Business No. 1 in the nation for entrepreneurial mentorship.
The report, published Sept. 15 in conjunction with The Princeton Review, identified Temple as offering the highest number of mentorship programs for graduate entrepreneurship students.
“This is a remarkable honor and sterling achievement,” said Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat. “By emphasizing innovation, promoting small-business development, and preparing our students to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, we continue to drive economic growth and job creation in the Philadelphia region and beyond. We are proud to be recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as the nation’s top institution for entrepreneurial mentorship.”
Through the IEI, which is based at the Fox School, the university conducts annual Idea and Be Your Own Boss Bowl® business plan competitions for all students, faculty, staff and alumni. With prizes exceeding $200,000, the Be Your Own Boss Bowl® is considered one of the most-lucrative and comprehensive business plan competitions in the nation.
IEI also operates Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures (MADV), the region’s largest entrepreneurship advisory and year-round venture forum program. Since 2003, MADV has worked with 328 innovation-based emerging firms in the region to raise more than $250 million in Series A funding.
The Fox School and IEI provide internship opportunities, business-planning workshops, seminars, mentoring and coaching, in addition to annual conferences in social, global, women’s and industry-specific entrepreneurship. IEI Executive Director Ellen Weber and Academic Director Robert McNamee lead the entrepreneurship and innovation programs.
The ranking praises IEI for its one-on-one meetings between students and entrepreneurs, senior executives and investors from the region, and calls attention to IEI’s Distinguished Leaders in Residence consultation program.
Over the last three years the IEI has expanded its offerings to include: a Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship; graduate certificates in both Innovation Strategy and Innovation & Technology Commercialization; MBA concentrations in both Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management; a General Education course in Creativity & Organizational Innovation; and an Entrepreneurial Living Learning Community.
Most college-bound students opt to spend their summer months coasting into the next stage of their lives. Coasting doesn’t suit Ryan Rist. Coasters, on the other hand…
An incoming freshman student at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, Rist turned his senior capstone project at Brookfield High School in Brookfield, Conn., into an exercise in entrepreneurialism.
And along the way, he has earned recognition from national TV and print media.
The 18-year-old is the founder of Rist Custom Coasters, a drink coaster with a rubberized circular bottom and a felt insert. The inserts, which can be personalized to the customer’s liking using logos or family pictures, for example, absorb run-off and keep moisture from collecting on the surface of a coffee table.
Brookfield High School encourages its graduating seniors to engage in a capstone project for the final three weeks of their high school careers, during which students can accept an internship, perform an independent study or complete community service.
Rist, who will study Finance at Fox School, said he had kicked around his coaster creation for six months prior to the capstone, and decided he would use his three-week capstone to finalize the design of his prototype.
“That’s when my dad (Ken) and I used a lathe in our basement and made the design out of acrylic,” Rist said. “Then we poured liquid rubber onto that, and we were left with the mold.”
Seeking additional funding, Rist turned to Kickstarter, an online funding platform. He set the fundraising bar at $500, for a product design to which he committed $1,200 in personal funds. In the first two hours, Rist cleared $500. He’s since garnered 167 backers who pledged more than $3,500.
“I had known about Kickstarter for a while,” he said, “and I was wanting to put a product of my own on there. When I had my idea for improved drink coasters, I knew it was a product that I could actually develop, yet still be worthy to put on Kickstarter.”
Showing a shade more of his ingenuity, Rist said he conducted most of his promotional work through Twitter, establishing a way that new followers to his account would receive a direct message encouraging them to visit his coaster page at Kickstarter.
Rist has developed a fanbase – internationally, domestically and in his hometown. He said he has filled orders originating from 35 states and 15 foreign countries. He also drawn praise from Sue Troupe, Brookfield High School’s school-to-career coordinator.
“He is an amazing high school student,” Troupe said, in an interview with The Danbury (Conn.) News Times. “In my 23 years at Brookfield High School, I have seen many students come up with fantastic ideas, but not take the next difficult steps.”
Fox News CT has covered Rist’s entrepreneurial exploits. So has the Fox Business Network, which included his coasters in the “American Success” feature in the July 16 broadcast of Making Money with Charles Payne.
“I didn’t know what to expect or how many people would buy a set,” Rist said. “I was hoping to at least make my money back, maybe make $1,000 or $2,000. Making $3,500 (through Kickstarter) was a pleasant surprise.”
For those interested in committing to Rist’s venture, his Kickstarter project has been closed, as he works to produce coasters to fulfill existing orders. Rist said he has plans to launch a website to offer the coasters.
When he arrives at Temple in August, Rist said he has aspirations of founding an entrepreneurial club, wherein members would take an idea and turn to Kickstarter in attempt to sustain a business model.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
“A little,” Rist said, “except this time, I’d be operating it with the help of a group of people.”
Fortunately for Rist, programs like this are available at Temple.
In Creativity and Organizational Innovation, a general-education course, students produce mock Kickstarter pitches as a final project. Robert McNamee, associate professor of Strategic Management, worked with members of the Entrepreneurial Student Association (ESA) and Innovate & Create Living Learning Community (LLC) to prototype a for-students, by-students Crowdfunding support program in 2013-14. ESA, which is open to all Temple students, serves as a springboard toward learning, networking and launching start-ups. CLL offers freshmen a chance to live in a residence hall with like-minded students, with a focus on entrepreneurship.
“Early entrepreneurship is getting over fears and putting your idea out there,” said McNamee, who also serves as managing director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute at Temple. “It’s fantastic to see somebody in high school, like Ryan, putting their idea out there and testing the waters to see what happens. This is the epitome of the Lean Startup approach—launch a minimum viable product, gather evidence and feedback, pivot, and scale up.”
As the saying goes, “A group that works together, stays together.” Therefore, a group or community based on trust can reap benefits from one another. Trusting communities tend to foster self-employed people or entrepreneurs whose successes are one in the same with the community. Self-employment ranges from about 5.7 percent in areas with very low social trust to about 8.4 percent in areas with very high social trust.
Community Social Capital and Entrepreneurship, published in the American Sociological Review, examines the public good of what is called social capital — the relationship and networks of a group of people who live in and work in a particular community — to see how the benefits of social trust and organizational membership help not only the individual but also the community at large.
Seok-Woo Kwon, assistant professor in the Department of Strategic Management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, started the research for this project 10 years ago with Colleen Heflin from the University of Missouri and Martin Ruef of Duke University.
“People have been researching a lot about the ‘If I have a lot of social capital, then I benefit from it,’” Kwon said. “For example, I get a better job, I get a quick job referral, or I have a higher chance of starting my own business. But I thought, what if I don’t have a high social capital but I’m surrounded by people who do. Their benefits are going to spill over to me.”
Kwon and his research partners tested their arguments about the communal benefits of social capital using data from the 2000 Census, Robert Putnam’s Social Capital Benchmark Survey and the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey.
Their study suggests that the role social trust plays in entrepreneurship is crucial at the community level of analysis in two of the following ways: it encourages social groups to engage in the free flow of information and it helps small entrepreneurs to overcome a lack of recognizability.
Participating in voluntary associations produces social capital that benefits both the entrepreneur and the community. Because potential partners and customers for independent business owners are connected rather than isolated, they are encouraged to socialize and share ideas outside of their circles. Furthermore, these shared memberships between voluntary associations and organizations allow for the flow of word-of-mouth information.
There is a downside to this type of connectedness, however. Communities that are polarized by ethnic, political, religious or class differences tend to create homogenous organizations. Network expansion does not extend past the organization itself.
As the researchers were determining whether everyone receives an equal kind of spillover from neighbors, they found that that whites benefited from community social capital to a greater extent than minorities in the same community.
The same lack of spillover could also be seen among immigrants. This is for two reasons: immigrants have less individual-level social capital at the start than non-immigrants, and individual-level social capital is less generously compensated if a community social capital exists. This means that community-level social capital fails to spillover as much positive impacts and influences to marginal groups in the community, because some of these groups tend to be newer.
“The immediate, direct translation of this is that you’ve got to build a community with high social capital,” Kwon said. “That means building a community with a lot of trust, where people get to meet and socialize with each other. If you build that community, then everyone, not just a select few, benefits and can get information to start their own businesses.”
Ash Vasudevan, PhD ’96, describes himself as being driven to make a difference and drawn to the unknown.
Case in point: He co-founded a nationwide talent search in India to find the next big-league-caliber baseball pitcher in a country where cricket dominates sports. Launched in 2007, that reality TV competition spanned a dozen cities and attracted 35,000 participants.
The theory behind the competition is that innate athletic ability can be applied across sports requiring similar skills, such as from cricket to baseball. It culminated in 18-year-olds Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel—javelin throwers who disliked cricket and had never heard of baseball—becoming the first Indians to sign professional sports contracts in North America (both with the Pittsburgh Pirates).
By now the story might sound familiar. Disney’s Million Dollar Arm—based on the competition of the same name—premieres nationally May 16 with Vasudevan being played by Aasif Mandvi of The Daily with Jon Stewart.
The movie chronicles the first season of Million Dollar Arm, which Vasudevan launched with sports agent JB Bernstein (portrayed by Jon Hamm) and Will Chang, who has ownership stakes in a number of professional teams, including the San Francisco Giants and the D.C. United. Vasudevan, who co-founded Seven Figures Management with Bernstein and Chang, is managing general partner of San Mateo, Calif.–based Edge Holdings, which creates and funds ventures in technology, media and entertainment.
“Life really would be boring if you didn’t take risks,” Vasudevan said of his business philosophy. “I’m drawn to the uncertainty. It’s the tried-and-true methods I don’t find particularly appealing. I like trying something nobody has tried before.”
Vasudevan has been involved in ventures ranging from reQall, a global business focusing on personal-assistance technology, to Gigante, a documentary about Major League Baseball player Andres Torres, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Going to India to find a star pitcher did not resonate with many of Vasudevan’s friends. Some suggested he and his colleagues should recruit in markets such as Japan or South America, which have produced numerous big leaguers, but Vasudevan countered that established scouting systems in those markets are much more likely to identify premier talent, leaving fewer gunslingers available to compete for reality TV.
Production of Season 3 of Million Dollar Arm is expected to start in the fall. Before that, of course, Vasudevan and colleagues will experience what it is like to inspire a feature film and to be portrayed in a movie shown around the world.
“The first time I watched myself on the screen, it was weird,” Vasudevan said of Mandvi’s performance. “To see Jon Hamm addressing my character, and reliving some of those conversations, is a lot of fun. We never imagined we would have such a wonderful global platform to tell our story.”