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An Overview of the Kauffman Firm Survey: Results from 2011 Business Activities

The Kauffman Firm Survey started with a cohort of nearly 5,000 firms that began operations in 2004. This cohort is tracked annually and asked an extensive set of detailed questions that cover a range of topics such as the background of the founders, the sources and amounts of financing, firm strategies and innovations, and outcomes such as sales, profits, and survival. This report, with results through 2011, is the final iteration of the Kauffman Firm Survey.

Although entrepreneurial activity is an important part of a capitalist economy, data about U.S. businesses in their early years of operation have been extremely limited. Only recently has it become apparent what important contributions new and young businesses make to job creation and innovation activities.

As part of an effort to understand the dynamics of new businesses in the United States, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (the Foundation) sponsored the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS), a panel study of new businesses founded in 2004 that are being tracked annually over their first eight years of operation. Tracking businesses over time allows us to follow business evolutions that would not be apparent in cross-sectional snapshots, the more typical collection method.

The KFS dataset provides researchers with a unique opportunity to study a panel of new businesses from startup to sustainability (or exit), with longitudinal data centering on topics such as how businesses are financed; the products, services, and innovations these businesses possess and develop in their early years of existence; and the characteristics of those who own and operate them. The data collection has been completed, and data are available through calendar year 2011, the eighth year of operations for continuing businesses. Additionally, since our panel came into existence before the most recent recession, following these businesses allows us to get a picture of how young businesses in the United States have recovered or been affected. A series of tables give a broad overview of the 4,928 businesses included in the Kauffman Firm Survey that are nationally representative of startups from 2004.