Business Owner Demography, Human Capital, and Social Networks

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While early work on the topic of entrepreneurship tended to portray entrepreneurs as heroic individuals (e.g., see Raines & Leathers, 2000, on Schumpeter’s description), more recent perspectives have come to recognize that new business activity is often initiated by groups of startup owners. Starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a new generation of scholars in the entrepreneurship field called for a systematic program of research that would document the prevalence of startup teams, describe their properties, and assess their impact on business performance (e.g., Gartner, Shaver, Gatewood, & Katz, 1994; Kamm, Shuman, Seeger, & Nurick, 1990). In a review of developments in entrepreneur research and theory, Gartner et al. (1994) noted that “the ‘entrepreneur’ in entrepreneurship is more likely to be plural, rather than singular” (p. 6). They offered an expansive definition of startup teams, which included owners, investors, organizational decision-makers, family members, advisors, critical suppliers, and buyers as possible candidates for the role of “entrepreneur.”





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Martin Ruef

Jack and Pamela Egan Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

My research considers the social context of entrepreneurship from both a contemporary and historical perspective. I draw on large-scale surveys of entrepreneurs in the United States to explore processes of team formation, innovation, exchange, and boundary maintenance in nascent business startups. My historical analyses address entrepreneurial activity and constraint during periods of profound institutional change. This work has considered a diverse range of sectors, including the organizational transformation of Southern agriculture and industry after the Civil War, African American entrepreneurship under Jim Crow, the transition of the U.S. healthcare system from professional monopoly to managed care, and the character of entrepreneurship during early mercantile and industrial capitalism.

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