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Making of a successful entrepreneur

on September 5, 2013

The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur provides insights into motivation, education and family history of startup founders. The research also shares views of those founders on determining success of new companies. The research team was led by Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University, Raj Aggarwal of the University of Akron, Krisztina Holly of the University of Southern California, and Alex Salkever of Duke University. The team surveyed 549 company founders in several areas, including health care.

The research was presented in two reports separating personal history and current views on startup success and failure. Here are highlights from both:

Family Background and Motivation

  • More than 90 percent of the entrepreneurs came from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds and were well-educated: 95.1 percent of those surveyed had earned bachelor's degrees, and 47 percent had more advanced degrees.
  • Seventy-five percent of the respondents ranked their academic performance among the top 30 percent of their high school classes, and 52 percent said they ranked among the top 10 percent. In college, 67 percent of the founders ranked among the top 30 percent of their undergraduate classes, and 37 percent ranked their performance among the top 10 percent.

Making of a Successful Entrepreneur

  • Professional networks were important to the success of their current businesses for 73 percent of the entrepreneurs. In comparison, 62 percent felt the same way about personal networks.
  • Only 11 percent of the first-time entrepreneurs received venture capital, and 9 percent received private/angel financing. Of the overall sample, 68 percent considered availability of financing/capital as important. Of the entrepreneurs who had raised venture capital for their most recent businesses, 96 percent considered financing important.

Weekly Wisdom from Kauffman is a regular feature on eMed highlighting insightful research from the Kauffman Foundation. Do you have a favorite Kauffman research insight that could help life science entrepreneurs? Send it to

Category:  Ideation  Execution  Creation  Tags:  Entrepreneur, Health IT, Investing, Startup

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