Jacqueline Kirtley

Jacqueline Kirtley
  • Assistant Professor of Management

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    2033 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: technology entrepreneurship, early stage strategy evolution, technological innovation

Links: CV


Jacqueline (Jax) Kirtley studies how strategy and technology evolve in early stage entrepreneurial firms developing revolutionary and disruptive technologies. She uses multi-year longitudinal field studies to examine hard-science startups in energy and cleantech, robotics, and medical devices, the scientists and engineers who found these firms, and the public and private organizations that support them in their earliest days.

Professor Kirtley is a co-organizer of the Wharton Technology and Innovation Conference, a Representative-at-Large for the Entrepreneurship & Strategy IG of the Strategic Management Society, and a mentor for the University of Pennsylvania’s Y-Prize Competition.

Professor Kirtley did her doctoral studies in the Strategy & Innovation Department at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. She holds a bachelor of science from MIT in Ocean Engineering with a minor in Mechanical Engineering as well as a master of science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, also from MIT. She received an MBA with high honors from Boston University. Prior to entering academia, Professor Kirtley taught science and engineering through live demonstrations at the Museum of Science Boston.

Continue Reading


  • Jacqueline Kirtley and Siobhan O’Mahony (2020), What is a Pivot? Explaining When and How Entrepreneurial Firms Decide to Make Strategic Change and Pivot, Strategic Management Journal. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.3131

    Abstract: Most theories of strategic change focus on how large, established firms recognize or fail to recognize the need for strategic change. Little research examines how early stage entrepreneurs decide when and how to change their strategies. With a longitudinal field study of seven entrepreneurial firms developing innovations in energy and cleantech, we examined 93 strategic decisions at risk for change. We found that decision makers chose to change their strategies only after new information conflicted with or expanded their beliefs. Further, a pivot, or strategic reorientation, was not achieved with a single decision, but by incrementally exiting or adding strategy elements over time, accumulating into a pivot. We contribute a grounded definition of what constitutes a pivot and explain when and how entrepreneurial firms pivot.

  • Jacqueline Kirtley (Working), Leveraging Uncertainty: the Power of Entrepreneurial Firms.

    Abstract: Entrepreneurial firms manage against but also benefit from uncertainty. One way they manage is to partner with established firms to augment limited resources. Partners depend on these relationships to provide knowledge and access to innovations that they would not risk developing themselves. While the established firms control more resources, little is known how the mutual dependence within these partnerships shifts the power dynamic. Through a longitudinal field study of 19 points of disagreement across 11 partnerships for three entrepreneurial firms, I examined how and when entrepreneurial firms developing novel technology innovations with uncertain resources gain relative power over established firm partners. I found they gained power through three mechanisms that leveraged the uncertainties inherent in entrepreneurship. First, they gained speculative power when other firms believed, not only in their future value creation, but also in that future the entrepreneurial firms will control critically needed resources. Second, established firm partners lost relative power when entrepreneurial firms were willing to trade uncertain strategy outcomes for alternatives to resource dependence. Third, with failure a likely outcome, entrepreneurial firms limited their partner’s power when they threatened to end operations rather than be influenced, endangering the established firm’s opportunity to participate in the innovation.

  • Fernando Suarez and Jacqueline Kirtley (2012), Dethroning an Established Platform, Sloan Management Review, 53 (4), pp. 35-41.


Past Courses


    How do you take a good idea and turn it into a successful venture? Whether you plan to become a founder, investor, mentor, partner, or early employee of a startup company, this course will take you through the entire journey of new venture creation and development. MGMT 230 is a project-based survey course designed to provide an overview of the entrepreneurial process and give you practical hands-on experience with new venture development. You and a team will have the chance to ideate, test, and develop a pitch for an early-stage startup by incorporating material from class lectures, simulations, labs, and class discussions. By the end of the course, you will have a better understanding of what it takes to create a successful startup, as well as proven techniques for identifying and testing new market opportunities, acquiring resources, bringing new products and services to market, scaling, and exiting new ventures.


    Building a new firm around technology innovation can mean different choices and challenges for entrepreneurs. The goals and outcomes of technology entrepreneurship vary as much as the innovations that inspire them. MGMT 267 will take you through the questions that entrepreneurs should address as they go from a technology innovation idea to founding and funding a tech startup. The course will appeal to individuals who have a desire to become technology entrepreneurs at some stage of their career, as well as others interested in the startup ecosystem such as investors, early employees, other professional service providers, etc. Through a combination of individual and team work, you will examine what is different when technology is at the core of an entrepreneurial opportunity and how to move a technology-based venture forward.


    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.


    Student arranges with a faculty member to pursue a research project on a suitable topic. For more information about research and setting up independent studies, visit: https://ppe.sas.upenn.edu/study/curriculum/independent-studies

Awards and Honors

  • Kauffman Dissertation Fellow, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 2016
  • INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition Finalist, INFORMS College of Organization Science, 2014
  • School of Management Doctoral Fellowship, Boston University, 2010-2014
  • Recipient, LEAD Fellowship, Boston University School of Management MBA Program, 2007-2009

In the News

Knowledge @ Wharton


In the News

When and How Entrepreneurs Pivot

Wharton’s Jacqueline Kirtley studied seven early-stage firms in the energy and cleantech sector to learn how strategic changes actually play out in the startup world.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 6/11/2019
All News

Wharton Magazine

Defining the Entrepreneurial Pivot
Wharton Magazine - 10/09/2019