My dissertation explores the role that entrepreneurship programs, particularly startup accelerators, play in shaping the performance of startups and, more broadly, the performance of innovation ecosystems.  It is well understood that highly successful innovation-driven startups emerge from a complex web of social and economic ties.  However, it remains an open question as to whether, and to what extent, such ties are shaped by systematic intervention.

Startup Accelerators (which I define as fixed-term, cohort-based programs) draw from their local ecosystem to provide a cohort of selected startups with access to a menu of resources: financing, mentorship, and education.  Participation in these programs is a strategic decision not only for entrepreneurs, but also investors and other ecosystem participants.  Accelerators, and other programs like them, provide a opportunity to observe the dynamics that shape entrepreneurship ecosystems.  I leverage my training in economics and sociology to explore how new institutions like accelerators shift the choices made by entrepreneurs and investors as well as the social processes that underpin entrepreneurship.

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Startup Accelerators and Ecosystems: Substitutes or Complements?

 Job Market Paper

In this paper, I explore how a startup’s regional environment impacts its performance and whether admission to a startup accelerator changes that relationship. Entrepreneurs cobble together resources from numerous sources as they build their new firms, but they are constrained by their social and geographic proximity to these resources. I use this insight as a starting point to explore whether accelerators act as a complement to or substitute for prior access to resources. Using data from MassChallenge, a leading startup accelerator in Boston, this paper uses a regression discontinuity framework to evaluate both the overall impact of the program on its portfolio of startups and its heterogeneity based on the quality of entrepreneurship resources in a startup’s local neighborhood and their ability to access those resources. Startups birthed in neighborhoods with higher levels of entrepreneurial resources are associated with higher quality ideas, but not higher success conditional on the quality of their idea. Interestingly, admission to the MassChallenge accelerator seems to have a larger increase in the ability of entrepreneurs to reach key milestones for startups founded in resource rich geographies. This finding suggests that accelerators change the way in which startup founders are able to access and leverage the resources in their home geographies.


Accelerators and the Regional Supply of Venture Capital Investment

Joint with Yael Hochberg

Recent years have seen the rapid emergence of a new type of program aimed at seeding startup companies. These programs, often referred to as accelerators, differ from previously known seed-stage institutions such as incubators and angel groups. While proliferation of such accelerators is evident, evidence on efficacy and role of these programs is scant. Nonetheless, local governments and founders of such programs often cite the motivation for their establishment and funding as the desire to transform their local economies through the establishment of a startup technology cluster in their region. In this paper, we attempt to assess the impact that such programs can have on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of
the regions in which they are established, by exploring the effects of accelerators on the availability and provision of seed and early stage venture capital funding in the local region.