Ethan Mollick

Ethan Mollick
  • Associate Professor of Management
  • Academic Director, Wharton Interactive

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    2026 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: innovation, entrepreneurship, crowdfunding, games

Links: Personal Website, Twitter

Overview

Ethan Mollick is an Associate Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies and teaches innovation and entrepreneurship. He is also author of The Unicorn’s Shadow: Combating the Dangerous Myths that Hold Back Startups, Founders, and Investors. His papers have been published in top management journals and have won multiple awards. His work on crowdfunding is the most cited article in management, published in the last five years.

Prior to his time in academia, Ethan cofounded a startup company, and he currently advises a number of startups and organizations. As the Academic Director and cofounder of Wharton Interactive, he works to transform entrepreneurship education using games and simulations. He has long had interest in using games for teaching, and he coauthored a book on the intersection between video games and business that was named one of the American Library Association’s top 10 business books of the year. He has built numerous teaching games, which are used by tens of thousands of students around the world.

Mollick received his PhD and MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, magna cum laude.

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Research

  • Olenka Kacperczyk, Ethan Mollick, Matthew Bidwell, After the End: Entrepreneurship as a Step on the Career Path.

    Abstract: Entrepreneurship scholars have commonly focused on antecedents of entrepreneurial entry while paying much less attention to the consequences of entrepreneurial experience. We examine the returns to entrepreneurship, by assessing the earnings ex-founders receive when they re-enter paid employment. Building on the mobility perspective to entrepreneurship, we conceptualize moves from entrepreneurship back to paid employment as career shifts. Casting re-entry into paid employment as a career move, we propose that – like other career moves – entrepreneurship will yield higher returns when experience and skills gained during entrepreneurial spell are closely matched with employer demands. Using the survey-based, career-history data collected on a large sample of alumni of a North American University, we find support for our claims among the 74% of ex-entrepreneurs who reenter paid employment. First, we demonstrate that, upon returning to paid employment, ex-founders are more likely than other movers to switch to positions that match entrepreneurial experience: they switch to (a) jobs with more generalist skills; (b) positions of higher-ranked and greater responsibility; (c) smaller-size employers. Moreover, we find that these career switches are associated with higher payoffs for ex-founders in paid employment.  Finally, consistent with skill acquisition, our study offers some evidence that the benefits of finding a match in paid employment are higher for ex-founders whose ventures were successful and reduced for ex-founders whose ventures failed. Our study thus contributes to the entrepreneurship and career studies by developing and evaluating a matching theory of payoffs to entrepreneurship.

  • Jason Greenberg and Ethan Mollick (Working), Sole Survivors: Solo Ventures Versus Founding Teams.

    Abstract: A widespread scholarly and popular consensus suggests that new ventures perform better when launched by teams, rather than individuals. This view has become so pervasive that many of the foremost investors rarely, if ever, fund startups founded by a solo entrepreneur. Despite this belief in the superiority of teams in the startup process, little empirical evidence has been used to examine this key question. In this paper, we examine the implications of founding alone versus as a group by using a unique dataset of crowdfunded companies that together generated approximately $358 million in total revenue. We show that companies started by solo founders survive longer than those started by teams. Further, organizations started by solo founders generate more revenue than organizations started by founder pairs, and do not perform significantly different than larger teams. This suggests that the taken-for-granted assumption among scholars that entrepreneurship is best performed by teams should be reevaluated, with implications for theories of team performance and entrepreneurial strategy.

  • Jason Greenberg and Ethan Mollick (2016), Activist Choice Homophily and the Crowdfunding of Female Founders, Administrative Science Quarterly, Forthcoming. 0001839216678847

    Abstract: In this paper, we examine when members of underrepresented groups choose to support each other, using the context of the funding of female founders via donation-based crowdfunding. Building on theories of choice homophily, we develop the concept of activist choice homophily, in which the basis of attraction between two individuals is not merely similarity between them, but rather perceptions of shared structural barriers stemming from a common social identity based on group membership. We differentiate activist choice homophily from interpersonal choice homophily that is based on the perceived similarity between two individuals, as well as from “induced homophily,” which reflects the likelihood that those in a particular social category will affiliate and form networks. Using lab experiments and field data, we show that activist choice homophily explains why women are more likely to succeed at crowdfunding than men and why women are most successful in industries in which they are least represented.

  • Ethan Mollick (2016), Filthy Lucre? Innovative Communities, Identity, and Commercialization, Organization Science, Forthcoming.

    Abstract: Online communities play an increasingly important role in developing innovation. However, relatively little is known about the ways in which community affiliation is associated with innovations and products generated in these communities are commercialized. By examining Open Source Software (OSS) as an example of an innovation community, and using both a quasi-experiment and a longitudinal survey, I seek to shed light on this issue. In the quasi-experiment using the launch of the Apple App Store, I find a lower propensity towards commercialization among individuals associated with online community innovation. I then examine the mechanisms for this lower commercialization with a novel longitudinal survey of OSS community members. Despite the history of OSS as an anti-commercial community, I do not find that anti-commercial attitudes play a role in commercialization decisions. Instead, differences in self-identity between community-based innovators and entrepreneurs have large significant effects on the propensity to commercialization. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for both the literatures on entrepreneurial identity and community innovation.

  • Ethan Mollick and Venkat Kuppuswamy, “Crowdfunding: Evidence on the Democratization of Startup Funding”. In Revolutionizing Innovation: Users, Communities, and Open Innovation, edited by Dietmar Harhoff and Karim Lakhani, (Cambrige: MIT Press, 2016)

  • Ethan Mollick and Alicia Robb (2016), Democratizing Innovation and Capital Access: The Role of Crowdfunding, California Management Review, 58 (2).

    Abstract: This paper focuses on if, and how, crowdfunding might democratize the commercialization of innovation. We examine research in three key areas related to democratization. First, we examine how crowdfunders decide what effort to support, and compare the decision-making process of the crowd to that of experts. Second, we investigate whether crowdfunding democratizes access to capital by asking whether or not groups that have historically been underrepresented in capital markets, on both the supply side and demand side, gain additional access to capital markets through crowdfunding. Finally, we investigate whether crowdfunding leads to the growth of new firms in the same way that traditional funding does.  Taken together, these questions point at a potentially vast alternative infrastructure for developing, funding, and commercializing innovation. By offering some early glimpses into how this world operates, we hope to inform researchers, managers, and policy makers.

  • Jason Greenberg, Ethan Mollick, Venkat Kuppuswamy (Under Review), Second Thoughts About Second Acts: Gender Differences in Serial Founding Rates.

    Abstract: Men are far more likely to start new ventures than women.  We argue that one explanation of this gap is that women respond differently to signals of past entrepreneurial success due to the “male hubris, female humility” effect. We argue that as a result women are disproportionately less likely to persist in second founding attempts than men when they have succeeded or failed by large margins.  Using a data set of serial founders in crowdfunding, we find evidence supporting this prediction. We then turn to a unique survey of founders in crowdfunding in order to examine alternative explanations. We find support for a variety of systematic differences between male and female founders, but the persistence effect remains. While decreased persistence in the face of low quality opportunities benefits women individually, we argue that it disadvantages women as a group, as it leads to 25.3% fewer female-led foundings in our sample than would have occurred if women reacted similarly to men.

  • Ethan Mollick (Draft), Delivery Rates on Kickstarter.

  • Matthew Bidwell and Ethan Mollick (2015), Shifts and Ladders: Comparing the Role of Internal and External Mobility in Executive Careers, Organiztion Science, 26 (6), pp. 1629-1645.

    Abstract: Workers can build their careers either by moving into a different job within their current organization or else by moving into a new job within a different organization. We use matching perspectives on job mobility to develop predictions about the different roles that those internal and external moves will play within their careers. We propose that internal and external mobility are associated with very different rewards: upwards progression into a job with greater responsibilities is much more likely to happen through internal mobility, but external moves will nonetheless offer similar increases in pay, as employers seek to attract external hires. We also examine how these predictions change when moves take workers across job functions as well as when external mobility happens involuntarily. Analyses of data on the careers on MBA alumni are used to support these arguments. Despite growing interest in boundaryless careers, our findings indicate that internal and external mobility play very different roles in executives’ careers, with upwards mobility still happening overwhelmingly within organizations.

  • Ethan Mollick and Ramana Nanda (2015), Wisdom or Madness? Comparing Crowds with Expert Evaluation in Funding the Arts, Management Science, 62 (6), pp. 1533-1553.

    Abstract: In fields as diverse as technology entrepreneurship and the arts, crowds of interested stakeholders are increasingly responsible for deciding which innovations to fund, a privilege that was previously reserved for a few experts, such as venture capitalists and grant-making bodies. Little is known about the degree to which the crowd differs from experts in judging which ideas to fund, and, indeed, whether the crowd is even rational in making funding decisions. Drawing on a panel of national experts and comprehensive data from the largest crowdfunding site, we examine funding decisions for proposed theater projects, a category where expert and crowd preferences might be expected to differ greatly. We instead find substantial agreement between the funding decisions of crowds and experts. Where crowds and experts disagree, it is far more likely to be a case where the crowd is willing to fund projects that experts may not. Examining the outcomes of these projects, we find no quantitative or qualitative differences between projects funded by the crowd alone, and those that were selected by both the crowd and experts. Our findings suggest that crowdfunding can play an important role in complementing expert decisions, particularly in sectors where the crowds are end users, by allowing projects the option to receive multiple evaluations and thereby lowering the incidence of "false negatives."

Teaching

Past Courses

  • MGMT801 - ENTREPRENEURSHIP

    MGMT 801 is the foundation coures in the Entrepeurial Management program. The purpose of this course is to explore the many dimensions of new venture creation and growth. While most of the examples in class will be drawn from new venture formation, the principles also apply to entrepreneurship in corporate settings and to non-profit entrepreneurship. We will be concerned with content and process questions as well as with formulation and implementation issues that relate to conceptualizing, developing, and managing successful new ventures. The emphasis in this course is on applying and synthesizing concepts and techniques from functional areas of strategic management, finance, accounting, managerial economics, marketing, operations management, and organizational behavior in the context of new venture development. The class serves as both a stand alone class and as a preparatory course to those interested in writing and venture implementation (the subject of the semester-long course, MGMT 806). Format: Lectures and case discussions Requirements: Class participation, interim assignments, final project Enrollment limited to Wharton MBA students only.

  • MGMT802 - INNOV, CHG AND ENT

    Designed for students with a serious interest in entrepreneurship, this course will provide you with an advanced theoretical foundation and a set of practicaltools for the management of startups and entrepreneurial teams in fast-changing and innovative environments. Building on the skills of MGMT 801, every class session is built around an experience where you have to put learning into practice, including the award-winning Looking Glass entrepreneurial simulation, role-playing exercises, and a variety of other games and simulations. The goal is to constantly challenge you to deal with entrepreneurial or innovative experiences, as you learn to navigate complex and changing environments on the fly, applying what you learned to a variety of scenarios. MGMT 802 is built to be challenging and will require a desire to deal with ambiguous and shifting circumstances. It is recommended students take MGMT 801 before enrolling in this course. Format: Lectures, discussion, interim reports, class participation, readings report, and presentations, and an innovation assessment in PowerPoint format.

  • MGMT806 - VENTURE IMPLEMENTATION

    This advanced course on entrepreneurship focuses on developing a validated opportunity or concept into a venture that is ready for seed financing and/or launching the product or service. Participants in this course must previously have developed a validated opportunity, either in a previous course or through independent efforts. Students may participate as a team of up to three people. Ideally, participants are commited to pursuing their opportunity commercially, or at least to seriously explore that possibility. The course provides a practical guidance for developing the product or service, forming the entity, raising capital building the team, establishing partnerships, and sourcing professional services. After completing the course, you will be "pitch ready" - whether submitting to campus venture competitions or to outside investors. Most coursework is focused on applying concepts and frameworks to project tasks in developing the venture. Students must have successfully completed MGMT 801 before enrolling in this course. Students must have successfully completed MGMT801 before enrolling in this course. Format: Highly interactive Requirements: Class participation, interim assignments.

  • MGMT893 - ADVANCED STUDY-EMGT

  • WH 297 - WH INDUSTRY EXPLORATION

    WIEP features short-term courses that focus on various industries and feature visits to businesses, lectures, extracurricular activities, and networking opportunities with alumni. Students must apply online: https://undergrad-inside.wharton.upenn.edu/wiep/

Awards and Honors

  • Lazaridis Institute Award for Best Paper in JBV, 2019
  • Outstanding Publication in Organizational Behavior, 2017
  • Schultze Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, 2016-2019
  • McGraw-Hill/Academy of Management Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award, 2016
  • Reimagine Education Silver Award for MBA Education, 2015
  • AOM-TIM Emerging Scholar Award, 2015
  • AOM Careers Division Best Paper Award, 2014
  • The 40 Most Outstanding B-School Profs Under 40 In The World, 2014
  • Top 30 Influencers in Crowdfunding, 2014
  • Thinkers 50 Future Thinker Award Shortlist, 2013
  • Kauffman Junior Faculty Fellowship in Entrepreneurship Research, 2013
  • SMS Best Paper Award Nomination, 2012
  • Heizer Award for Best Dissertation in Entrepreneurship, Finalist, 2011
  • Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Award, 2011
  • Graduate Management Council Ideas to Innovation Challenge, 3rd Place, 2011
  • American Library Association’s “Top Ten Business Books of 2009”, 2009
  • Kauffman Dissertation Fellow, 2007

In the News

Knowledge @ Wharton

Miscellaneous

Gameography

Note: Credits are for primary game design. Game development provided by multiple organizations, including Stoneblade, Wharton Learning Lab, Wharton Interactive, Forio, and Lincoln Loop.

Ethan Mollick and Justin Gary (2018), The Breakthrough Game. A card/board game for 3-6 people that walks players through the scientific approach to developing new innovations.

Ethan Mollick and Sarah Toms (2018) ARC: Disruption. A Looking Glass/ARC simulation teaching strategy, crisis management, and team optimization.

Ethan Mollick (2016)  ARC: Entrepreneurship. A Looking Glass/ARC simulation teaching entrepreneurial management.

Ethan Mollick (2016)  IdeaMachine. Online student engagement tool for building interactive learning communities and applying active learning pedagogical techniques.

Ethan Mollick (2014) The Startup Game. Entrepreneurship simulation for 20-86 players, played by over 20,000 students from around the world.

Activity

Latest Research

Olenka Kacperczyk, Ethan Mollick, Matthew Bidwell, After the End: Entrepreneurship as a Step on the Career Path.
All Research

In the News

Forget the Myths: How Entrepreneurs Can Succeed in Real Life

Wharton’s Ethan Mollick talks about his new book 'The Unicorn’s Shadow' and the myths that hold entrepreneurs back.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2020/07/20
All News

Awards and Honors

Lazaridis Institute Award for Best Paper in JBV 2019
All Awards