Is Entrepreneurship Contagious?

Is Entrepreneurship Contagious?

Exposing individuals to entrepreneurs may encourage them to start their own ventures, spurring increased economic activity and growth.

Is entrepreneurship going viral? New research by the Kauffman Foundation shows that it just might be.

The new paper: “Getting the Bug: Is (Growth) Entrepreneurship Contagious?” released by the Kauffman Foundation presents the results of a survey of 2,000 Americans across the country, asking whether they knew entrepreneurs – both in general and specifically “growth” entrepreneurs whose ventures add more employment and wealth to the economy – and if they themselves were entrepreneurs. The data then was analysed by age, gender, geographic region and income level.

“Our goal was to discover whether entrepreneurship is an imitative behaviour,” said author Paul Kedrosky, Kauffman Foundation senior fellow. “If so, increasing people’s exposure to entrepreneurs – particularly growth entrepreneurs in areas like software, the Internet or biotechnology – could generate more new entrepreneurs and by association, more economic growth.”

Overall, 36.7 percent of respondents reported knowing an entrepreneur, but only 15.4 percent knew a growth entrepreneur. These differences were more dramatic when evaluated by gender: 24.8 percent of men claimed to know a growth entrepreneur, compared with 12.1 percent of women.

The survey also examined whether respondents knowing entrepreneurs made them more likely to be entrepreneurs themselves. The results indicate a significant association between knowing an entrepreneur and being one: 37.8 percent of respondents who knew a growth entrepreneur were entrepreneurs themselves, as were 35.5 percent of respondents who knew entrepreneurs overall. Men were more likely to be entrepreneurs if they knew an entrepreneur than were women, in both the growth and overall entrepreneur categories.

This preliminary research has clear implications for entrepreneurship programs, Kedrosky said. “While the results don’t show specific causality, the connection between knowing and being an entrepreneur is strong,” he said. “Funding and programmes to encourage entrepreneurship and wealth creation can have an impact simply by bringing together entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, particularly among those groups who have the least exposure currently, and helping it go ‘viral.’ “

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