Get to Know a Wharton Prof: Laura Huang

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

In this series, Get To Know A Wharton Prof, we do brief interviews with our professors in order to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of these amazing scholars, teachers, and entrepreneurs. Today’s interviewee, Laura Huang, is an Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Wharton. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California-Irvine, an MBA for INSEAD, and a B.S. in Engineering from Duke University. Learn more about her here.

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Get To Know A Wharton Prof: Ian MacMillan

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

In this series, Get To Know A Wharton Prof, we do brief interviews with our professors in order to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of these amazing scholars, teachers, and entrepreneurs. Today’s interviewee, Ian “Mac” MacMillan, is the Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Director of the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center.  Learn more about him here.

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Get To Know A Wharton Prof: Raffi Amit

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

In this series, Get To Know A Wharton Prof, we do brief interviews with our professors in order to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of these amazing scholars, teachers, and entrepreneurs. Today’s interviewee, Raphael (“Raffi”) Amit, is the Academic Director of Wharton Entrepreneurship. He is also the Robert B. Goergen Professor of Entrepreneurship and a Professor of Management at the Wharton School. Dr. Amit founded and leads the Wharton Global Family Alliance (WGFA), a unique academic-family business partnership established to enhance the marketplace advantage and the social wealth creation contributions of global families through thought leadership, knowledge transfer and the sharing of ideas and best practices among influential global families. Learn more about him here.

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The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook – Free Ebook

By Ian C. MacMillan, Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and James D. Thompson, Director of the Wharton Social Enterprise Program


We recently published a free ebook, The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook: Pressure Test Your Start-Up Idea—Step 1, through Wharton Digital Press. It summarizes part of our field research on the subject of social entrepreneurship, reflecting 26 years of combined experience. It explains the first step in the process of creating a social enterprise, testing the idea, that is designed to make modest profits while attacking and ameliorating a social problem. We provide a series of practical and pragmatic tools that people should use when starting a social enterprise.

We have developed a tough-love approach that helps aspiring social entrepreneurs systematically decrease uncertainty and significantly increase the likelihood of a successful launch. The free book focuses on the essential due diligence process you need to carry out before deploying resources to your effort, which may be noble of purpose but vainglorious in outcome. This due diligence starts with a systematic analysis of the scope and source of the social problem and the “market” for the solution to the problem. Often times, well-meaning people attempt to deliver a solution that the beneficiary has no interest in receiving, thereby wasting resources that are needed elsewhere to ease distress. As part of this market analysis, the would-be social entrepreneur needs to select a target segment to start the ball rolling and accomplish initial traction.

The next step in the due diligence process is to develop a beneficiary experience table that maps out, in detail, the entire experience that the beneficiary must go through in order to receive the benefit. Often times, all the benefactors think about is the actual delivery of a service, without thinking about the types of problems the beneficiary might face in getting to the place where the benefit is delivered. Such problems may include getting reliable power supply and water supply in the remote areas, letting people who could benefit know that the service is actually available and getting people to repair equipment and source spares for that equipment in remote areas. Subsequently we encourage entrepreneurs to create a deliverables table that specifies, in detail, everything that the entity must deliver for the beneficiary experience to work. The reason this is important is that any step in this experience that cannot be delivered by local infrastructure adds considerably to the cost of operations, since then the enterprise needs to deliver that missing step.

The ensuing step in the process is to look carefully at what the most competitive current alternative is that the beneficiary is using. In many cases the people who are at risk have been enduring, and surviving, without the service being offered, so one of the most common alternatives is for the beneficiaries to simply do nothing and continue to endure what they have been through, for perhaps generations. In many cases, recipients of the benefits may have to give up extremely limited resources in order to receive that benefit, and they may well be inclined to simply continue as in the past. It is important for the would-be creators of the enterprise to recognize that there is always some form of competitive alternative, with which the enterprise needs to compete. In one case, we looked at the competition for funds for a drinking water disinfectant treatment. It would be competing with the percentage of the tiny household budget that would be spent on cigarettes for the husband of the home.

With this first step of testing the idea completed, the would-be benefactor will have done enough to justify moving to steps two and three, which includes more detailed analyses and planning necessary to launch and scale a social enterprise. The expanded edition of the book, which will publish in the fall, addresses the full process for creating a successful enterprise, which stems from what we have learned in working with start-ups: The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook: Pressure Test, Launch, and Scale Your Enterprise—Steps 1-3. Not only will this book be useful for people wanting to start an entrepreneurial enterprise with a social objective, but we feel it can be used by NGOs, not for profits, and charities.  Many successful entrepreneurs who are reaching the stage where they would like to pay forward might feel their donations are better spent by expecting potential fundees to work through the process MacMillan and Thompson propose before asking for funds.

If you are at all interested in the topic, please download the free ebook and take the survey, which Wharton Digital Press is conducting in order to allow social entrepreneurs and those who support them to provide feedback that will shape the expanded edition. For more information, visit If you find the ebook helpful, please email it to your colleagues and share it with your followers on social media.



IanMacMillanIan (Mac) C. MacMillan is the Academic Director of the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Center and Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Entrepreneurial Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the academic world, he was a chemical engineer, and gained experience in gold and uranium mines, chemical and explosives factories, oil refineries, soap and food manufacturers, and the South African Atomic Energy Board. He has also been a director of companies in the travel, import-export, and pharmaceutical fields in the United States, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, and Japan. He has also consulted for numerous companies, including Microsoft, DuPont, General Electric, IBM, and Citibank.  Mac is the author or coauthor of books and articles on new ventures, innovation, organizational politics, and strategy formulation.


JimThompsonJames D. Thompson is Co-founder and Director of the Wharton Social Enterprise Program. His areas of research focus are social entrepreneurship, building future markets, and investment under conditions of high, or near-Knightian, uncertainty. He has worked in Africa for more than two decades, with firms ranging from small to large, across multiple business sectors.  He currently serves on the executive board of a venture capital–funded company in Philadelphia and is on the investment advisory committee of a Swiss social entrepreneurship investment fund.



“Making Entrepreneurship Last” – Building a Going Concern Investment Fund

By Emanuel Kastl, Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Wharton’s Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center; PhD Candidate at Cass Business School, City University London

The year as Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Wharton School has profoundly impacted my research. Wharton offers a stimulating environment of world-class academics, insightful PhD courses, extensive data resources and a vibrant research community. Since the research is at the interface between disciplines, I discussed my ideas and preliminary results with academics from the fields of entrepreneurship, strategic management, finance, as well as business economics. I obtained valuable feedback by presenting my research at the Wharton School’s Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurship Center, as well as in the PhD student seminar series. My research benefited from taking PhD courses on quantitative methods and organizational theory. During my time at Wharton, I joined the Wharton Investment Management Club, which in combination with conferences at the Mack Center, provided valuable practitioner insights.

In my doctoral research on the interface between competitive strategy and finance, I explore how organizational factors affect firm performance and firm selection in the global hedge fund market. Hedge fund managers, as the entrepreneurs of the finance industry, require efficiency and innovation to succeed. With an average age of a little less than six years, the life span of the typical hedge fund management company is quite short. Hence, it seems to be an important question, which organizational factors help to build a sustainable business behind the likely short-lived success of a specific hedge fund ‘product’ (i.e. a specific investment strategy). Here is a glimpse on the preliminary insights, which my ongoing research provides:

  • From the perspective of the hedge fund manager, a diversified fund offering is beneficial. Diversification does not hurt hedge fund firm performance (in terms of returns and alphas), while it is positively related to capital flows from investors and firm survival. On the firm level, capital flows are the key variable to maximize for the hedge fund entrepreneurs. Capital inflows increase assets under management, the main determinant of hedge fund firm revenues (i.e. dollar fee income) and survival.
  • Managing the transition from private to institutional investors – transparency and a broader product offering go hand in hand. Most hedge fund firms build a track record with money from their founders or with seed capital from high net worth individuals. Even if the initial investment strategy makes for a killer product, it is likely that competitive advantage is fleeting as knowledge on innovative investment strategies diffuses and market conditions change. For a successful transition in the hedge fund firm’s client base from private to ‘big ticket’ institutional investors, a shift in focus from the specific hedge fund product to the overall firm seems to be key. Institutional investors, such as pension funds or university endowments, tend to look for hedge fund investments that are offered by transparent firms with well established procedures, not ‘mom and pop’ stores. In particular, two factors are worth mentioning:
  1.  Establish beyond minimum required transparency with regulatory agencies, as well as transparent investment procedures, which are supported by reputable service providers (e.g. prime brokers). This level of transparency will not give away the fund’s ‘secret sauce’ while it will allow institutional investors to understand the hedge fund firm’s way of investing and potential competitive edge. Position-by-position disclosure of the fund’s investments (e.g. via managed accounts) demands more caution and may make the hedge fund vulnerable to negative competitive consequences, such as front running or predatory trading.
  2. Branch out the hedge fund product offering to be prepared for the time when competition in the original investment strategy or geographic focus increases and investment opportunities dry up.


EKastl_CroppedBio: Emanuel Kastl is a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a third year PhD researcher at Cass Business School, City University London.