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: CV, Personal Website, Twitter


Prof. Ethan Mollick studies innovation and entrepreneurship, with a special emphasis on how to give everyone more opportunities to be innovative and entrepreneurial.  His papers have been published in top management journals and have won best paper awards from multiple divisions of the Academy of Management. His work on crowdfunding is the most cited article in management published in the last five years. Prof. Mollick is a Schultze Distinguished Professor and Kauffman Foundation Junior Faculty Fellow.

Prof. Mollick is also the Academic Director and co-founder of Wharton Interactive, which aims to transform business school teaching using games and simulations. He has had a long interest in using games for teaching, and co-authored a book on the intersection between video games and business that was named one of the American Library Association’s top ten business books of the year, and has studied the way that games can be used to motivate performance and to educate. His simulations and games are used by tens of thousands of students around the world.

Prior to his academic career, he was co-founder of a company and a management consultant. Prof. Mollick has worked with organizations ranging from DARPA to General Mills on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Ethan Mollick received his PhD (2010) and MBA (2004) from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, magna cum laude, in 1997.

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  • 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.

  • Venkat Kuppuswamy and Ethan Mollick (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."

  • Matthew Bidwell, Shinjae Won, Roxana Barbulescu, Ethan Mollick (2015), I Used to Work at Goldman Sachs! Status, Careers, and Competitive Advantage, Strategic Management Journal, 36 (8), pp. 1164-1173.

  • Ethan Mollick and Venkat Kuppuswamy (Working), When Firms are Potemkin Villages: Entrepreneurs and Formal Organizations.

    Abstract: Scholars have long been interested in the reasons why firms exist, arguing that they have efficiency and productivity benefits over other approaches to organizing. We examine why entrepreneurs often form firms, since entrepreneurial ventures are not large enough to accrue any of the expected benefits from formality. Instead, we argue that there are reasons beyond efficiency (and regulation) that cause firms to exist. We suggest that an unrecognized implication of new institutional and ecological theory leads entrepreneurs to establish firms as a legitimating agent, and to allow them to act in industries with existing firm populations. We test this theory by examining a unique sample of crowd-funded startup companies, to empirically identify the advantages of formal versus informal organizations with different types of third party entities. We find that adopting the mantle of a formal organization helps entrepreneurs in contexts where they operate with other formal organizations, but not in interactions with other types of resource holders.


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

  • MGMT802 - Change, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

    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. ,Format: Lectures, discussion, interim reports, class participation, readings report, and presentations, and an innovation assessment in PowerPoint format.

  • MGMT806 - Formation and Implementation of Entrepreneurial Ventures

    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.

  • WH 297 - Wharton Industry Exploration Program

    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:

Awards and Honors

  • 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



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.


Latest Research

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

In the News

Disrupting the Disruptors: Startup Accelerators Feel Pressure to Evolve

Ten years ago startup accelerators were the tech high-priests who entrepreneurs looked to for advice and funding. Now their value proposition is evolving -- and being questioned.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2016/07/28
All News

Awards and Honors

Outstanding Publication in Organizational Behavior 2017
All Awards