Alumni Surveys on Entrepreneurship

Babson College has published results from a new alumni survey on entrepreneurship and given Babson's ability to reach the presses, I am sure this will bring some renewed interest to alumni surveys on entrepreneurship. 

While I am hesitant to even mention the research as I can't locate the actual paper which this is based on, and hence also can't locate the survey they used, this is in the press. 

The authors come down strongly behind the value on entrepreneurship education, not something that most other alumni surveys of entrepreneurs have been able to address because of lack of matched course data and the relatively recent explosion of entrepreneurship classes. They find more impact in this regard on a student having taken actual courses than just having completed a business plan.

Alumni surveys remain a strong vehicle for research right now, partially because of recent successes at some key locations with the design, but I have to also believe in an era of austere budgets this is one collection mechanism that a lot of schools could find donors or internal support to collect. I know we currently have a small amount invested in an effort at Stanford to collect similar information so there should be more coming out on this topic in the next year.

Original Post - March 4, 2009

A week or so ago, we released a report based on an alumni survey of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduates which looked at their incidence of entrepreneurship. It had some interesting findings, including:

An estimated 6,900 MIT alumni companies with worldwide sales of approximately $164 billion are located in Massachusetts alone and represent 26 percent of the sales of all Massachusetts companies.

4,100 MIT alumni-founded firms are based in California, and generate an estimated $134 billion in worldwide sales.

States currently benefiting most from jobs created by MIT alumni companies are Massachusetts (estimated at just under one million jobs worldwide); California (estimated at 526,000 jobs), New York (estimated at 231,000 jobs), Texas (estimated at 184,000) and Virginia (estimated at 136,000).

While MIT is without a doubt an anomalous university in the U.S. and globally, the power of this survey was to quantify for the first time a portion of the entrepreneurial impact MIT has had over the last several decades. 

I say a portion because this survey only looked at companies started by MIT alumni, not all the other effects in terms of inventions, human capital creation, etc. While I haven't talked to the MIT authors about why they started this survey, I suspect it had something to do with wanting to know how entrepreneurship from MIT was contributing to local, national, and international economies. As universities have become more of a focus for economic growth, being able to quantify these effects would naturally become more of a focus.

This morning I ran across a similar new alumni survey out of Iowa State University that also looks at the incidence of entrepreneurship, among other topics such as those who created a non-profit or report having filed for a patent. 

They find that Iowa State alumni have created businesses that employ about 35,000 in Iowa and more than 220,000 in the United States. This is interesting to have along with the MIT report because Iowa State is an example of a public university that also has a significant historical focus on entrepreneurship through the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. Their methodologies don't appear identical, but should prove interesting to compare in this seemingly emerging area of study.

Are there other alumni surveys that I have missed that cover entrepreneurship? Please send them my way. 

In the meantime, the MIT survey instrument is available online for those wanting to take a closer look. If you are considering undertaking a similar study at a specific university, let us know so perhaps there can be more comparability among disparate efforts.

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e.j. reedy data maven

E. J. Reedy

As a director in Research and Policy, E.J. Reedy oversees the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s research initiatives related to education, human capital development, and data.

Since joining the Kauffman Foundation in 2003, Reedy has been significantly involved in the coordination of the Foundation’s entrepreneurship and innovation data-related initiatives, including the Kauffman Firm Survey, for which he served as a principal investigator, and the Foundation’s multi-year series of symposiums on data, as well as many web-related projects and initiatives. He is a globally recognized expert in entrepreneurship and innovation measurement and has consulted for a variety of agencies.