Entrepreneurship Program at HBS Wins Top Award

The entrepreneurship program at Harvard Business School (HBS), which has offered courses in entrepreneurship for more than a half century and counts among its 65,000 graduates some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, won the top award for MBA programs nationwide from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE), an organization devoted to entrepreneurship education and development.

USASBE, whose members include more than 950 business educators from around the country, cited Harvard Business School as its National Model MBA Program winner at the organization’s annual conference in Dallas on Jan. 17-19.

“The judges were impressed with the breadth and depth of our entrepreneurship program, with 31 faculty in the Entrepreneurial Management unit and another 30 in other units whose work is directly related to entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Michael J. Roberts, senior lecturer and executive director of the School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship.

Noting that HBS requires its 900 first-year students to take a course called The Entrepreneurial Manager and that the School offers nearly 20 elective courses in entrepreneurship to second-year students, Roberts added, “The judges appreciated that our approach to entrepreneurship – as an opportunity-focused orientation to general management that is applicable in all situations – speaks to all students regardless of their near-term career aspirations. Finally, the judges were interested to see how entrepreneurship was integrated with some of the other key initiatives at the School, including social enterprise and technology and innovation.”

The School’s entrepreneurship efforts have been supported by the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship since 2003. Rock, a member of the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 1951 and a pioneering venture capitalist who helped form numerous startups that went on to become twentieth-century success stories, including Intel Corp., Teledyne, Scientific Data Systems, and Apple Computer, donated $25 million to HBS to help ensure that entrepreneurship would continue to be a key part of the School’s curriculum. In 1981, Rock and his classmate, Fayez Sarofim, funded the first professorship at HBS in the field of entrepreneurship.

Beyond the curriculum, HBS’s Rock Center also organizes an annual Business Plan Contest, coordinates the activities at the HBS California Research Center in Silicon Valley, and publishes New Business, a twice-yearly overview of entrepreneurial interests and pursuits at HBS. “About 40 percent of HBS graduates describe themselves as entrepreneurs at some point in their career,” Roberts pointed out.

In addition to supporting a variety of faculty projects, the fund that established the Rock Center also provides fellowships for MBA and doctoral students, underwrites symposia and conferences on entrepreneurship, and develops new publications and Web sites to extend the reach and impact of the School’s work in this field.

Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School traces its roots back to 1937, when Professor George F. Doriot, who would later found American Research and Development, one of the first venture capital firms in the United States, began dealing with entrepreneurial issues in his second-year Manufacturing course. In 1947, Professor Myles L. Mace developed a second-year elective titled the Management of Small Enterprises to meet the demands of HBS students eager to start their own businesses after World War II. A number of new courses followed under the direction of other faculty members, and in 1972, the School launched an Executive Education offering known as the Smaller Company Management Program (now the Owner/President Management Program) that is dedicated entirely to entrepreneurial issues.

Beginning in 1981 under the leadership of Professor Howard H. Stevenson, the School’s entrepreneurship faculty developed a framework for future teaching and research that saw entrepreneurship as a special kind of approach to management rather than an innate trait. At the core of this work is HBS’s unique definition of entrepreneurship: “The pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” From this perspective, entrepreneurship is seen as a particular type of managerial behavior, available to virtually all managers in organizations of all kinds and sizes.

Since 1999, the School’s Entrepreneurship Unit has developed nearly 600 pieces of course and curricular material, including nearly 400 teaching cases. More than 1,800 cases on myriad aspects of entrepreneurship are now available from Harvard Business School Publishing.

The entrepreneurial success stories of more than 20 outstanding HBS graduates are featured in a new video archive (www.hbs.edu/entrepreneurs). In a series of interviews that last from some thirty minutes to almost two hours, entrepreneurs representing a variety of industries – from banking and financial management to media and manufacturing to health care and high tech – share their insights as they reflect on their lives and careers. Each interview examines the subject’s early years and education and then focuses on the particulars of their entrepreneurial experience, as these HBS graduates grew their businesses, worked with their customers and employees, and considered the role of their companies in society.