Valentina A. Assenova

Valentina A. Assenova
  • Edward B. and Shirley R. Shils Endowed Term Assistant Professor of Management
  • Govil Family Faculty Scholar, 2020-2021

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3202 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: Entrepreneurship; Social Entrepreneurship; Emerging Economies; Economic Development

Links: Google Scholar

Overview

Valentina A. Assenova is the Edward B. and Shirley R. Shils Endowed Term Assistant Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Her research centers on the formation, growth, and funding of early-stage firms, with a focus on emerging and developing economies. She has collaborated with organizations such as FINCA International and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation on projects and initiatives that advance entrepreneurship and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. She holds a Ph.D., M.Phil., and M.A. from Yale University, an M.B.A. from the University of Cambridge, and a B.Sc. in Economics from the Wharton School.

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Research

  • So-Min Cheong and Valentina Assenova (2021), Absorptive capacity facilitates adaptation to novel environmental disasters, PLOS ONE, 16 (11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0259368

    Abstract: Absorptive capacity – the ability to learn and apply external knowledge and information to acquire material resources – is an essential but overlooked driver in community adaptation to new and unprecedented disasters. We analyzed data from a representative random sample of 603 individuals from 25 coastal communities in Louisiana affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We used simultaneous equation models to assess the relationships between absorptive capacity and resource acquisition for affected individuals after the disaster.  Results show that the diversity of individuals’ prior knowledge coupled with the community’s external orientation and internal cohesion facilitate resource use. They go beyond simply providing resources and demonstrate individual and community features necessary for absorbing information and knowledge and help devise adaptation strategies to address the dynamics of a changing economic, social, and political environment after the disaster.

  • Ranran Wang, Valentina Assenova, Edgar Hertwich (2021), Energy system decarbonization and productivity gains reduced the coupling of CO2 emissions and economic growth in 73 countries between 1970-2016, One Earth, 4 (11), pp. 1614-1624. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2021.10.010

    Abstract: Nations must curtail carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 7 % p.a. to meet the Paris Agreement temperature targets. A perceived economic growth-climate mitigation trade-off has diminished political will to act. However, there is no scholarly consensus regarding the magnitude of the trade-off between economic growth and CO2 mitigation, and a lack of ex-post evidence regarding the extent to which mitigation measures can effectively lower CO2 emissions. Here we present a structural equation model integrating emissions and economic and energy-system characteristics over the period 1970-2016 to empirically assess mechanisms that influence the GDP-CO2 relationship for 73 countries. Robust to various model specifications and statistical tests, we found a simple unitary scale effect between per capita GDP and per capita CO2 emissions, while five emission-reduction mechanisms collectively contributed to global emission reductions by 19 petagrams, principally energy system decarbonization and productivity gains. Within the observed year-to-year emissions development, reductions at a rate consistent with the Paris Agreement can be achieved in about 10% of instances while maintaining economic growth.

    Description: Fearing negative repercussions for economic growth, climate policy is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement temperature target. However, the academic literature disagrees on both the impact of economic growth on climate mitigation and the effectiveness of various mitigation mechanisms on CO2 emissions reduction. Here, we investigate the relationship between CO2 emissions and economic growth in 73 countries during the period 1970–2016. We find that in the absence of mitigation mechanisms, emissions would have indeed grown at the same rate as the economy. However, these five mechanisms—energy system decarbonization, electrification, increased economic productivity, deindustrialization, and winter warming—are identified as successfully reducing emissions by 19 gigatonnes, mostly during periods of economic growth. Yet, observations indicate that emissions reduction rates consistent with the Paris Agreement could be achieved while maintaining economic growth only if energy systems are more rapidly decarbonized.

  • Valentina Assenova and Ethan Mollick (Working), Tipping Points in Gender Representation: Evidence from the Startup Game.

    Abstract: Startups founded by women consistently receive less funding and lower valuations compared to those founded by men, particularly from male investors. A common remediation technique to reduce this gender inequality has been to increase women’s representation in powerful resource-controlling roles, though in some cases, this appears to exacerbate backlash and stereotyping effects. We examine whether and how shifts in the gender composition of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs might affect the emergence of a critical mass to remediate gender inequality. We propose that a central driver of this inequality is homophily preferences among men and suggest that these preferences become weaker as women’s representation increases. This mechanism results in a nonlinear “Goldilocks” effect: gender inequality dips for median levels of women’s representation but is amplified below and above these thresholds. We examine the evidence for the Goldilocks effect using data from 27,082 participants in a live-play simulation of fundraising in Silicon Valley, in which we randomized players to the roles of founders of early-stage companies and partners of venture capital firms. We found that gender inequality was lowest at median thresholds of critical mass in women’s representation but increased below and above these thresholds. Our findings suggest that increasing gender diversity in venture capital firms holds the key to mitigating gender inequality in startup funding and valuation.

  • Valentina Assenova and Raffi Amit (Under Review), Why Are Some Nations More Entrepreneurial than Others? The Role of National Culture in Organizational Founding Rates.

    Abstract: Why are some nations more entrepreneurial than others? This study examines the cultural antecedents of cross-national variation in the rates of organizational founding. It argues that some nations became more entrepreneurial than others through their adaptive response to ecological adversity. Nations that historically faced low ecological adversity developed cultural systems that favored rule-breaking versus rule-following (cultural looseness versus tightness). These behavioral and psychological adaptations developed to cope with adversity affected the cultural support for entrepreneurial activity, and a host of behavioral determinants of organizational founding, including national attitudes, abilities, and aspirations toward entrepreneurship, opportunity perception, risk acceptance, and opportunity motivations for entry into entrepreneurship – factors predictive of higher rates of organizational founding. Consistent with this explanation, archival evidence about the prevalence of ecological adversity in 230 geopolitical regions of the world shows that low levels of ecological adversity correspond to high levels of cultural looseness, which contributed to high rates of organizational founding.

  • Aparajita Agarwal and Valentina Assenova (Under Revision), Mobile Money as a Steppingstone: Addressing Voids in Credit-Market Institutions through Digital Platforms.

    Abstract: Digital platforms often emerge to meet the needs left unaddressed by missing or underdeveloped institutional infrastructure (i.e., “institutional voids”). We examine the case of “mobile money” and the role it has played in filling voids in credit-market institutions that limit access to credit for potential borrowers in emerging and developing economies. We argue that the proliferation of mobile money has increased access to credit from formal financial institutions among previously underserved and excluded borrowers in two ways: (i) through end-user certification, and (ii) strategic actions by incumbent organizations. We examine the evidence for these mechanisms in the context of the growth in mobile money penetration and usage in emerging economies with voids in credit-market institutions. We find support for both mechanisms contributing to the steppingstone effect of mobile money that increases users’ access to credit from formal financial institutions. Our findings suggest that digital platforms such as mobile money can become steppingstones that bridge institutional voids.

  • Valentina Assenova and Raffi Amit (Under Revision), Poised For Growth: Cohorts’ Knowledge and its Effects on Post-Acceleration Startup Growth.

    Abstract: Startup accelerators have emerged as important loci for organizational learning among early-stage startups. These organizations use a cohort structure of peers from which a focal startup can draw knowledge, assimilate it, and apply it toward commercial ends. We develop and test hypotheses about how the prior related knowledge and knowledge diversity of peers in a cohort affect the post-acceleration growth of early-stage startups. We use data from 23,364 startup applicants to 408 accelerators in 177 countries between 2013 and 2019 and find support for our hypotheses. Our results show that the prior related knowledge and knowledge diversity of peers in a cohort were associated with greater post-acceleration startup growth. We also find positive average treatment effects of accelerators within programs, countries, and regions.  

  • Valentina Assenova (2020), Institutional Change and Early-Stage Startup Selection: Evidence from Applicants to Venture Accelerators, Organization Science, 32 (2), pp. 407-432. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2020.1390

    Abstract: Existing research at the nexus of institutional theory and entrepreneurship suggests that lowering institutional barriers to forming, growing, and exiting new firms can affect the types of start-ups that entrepreneurs found in a region. These institutional changes could influence entrepreneurs’ perceptions of the value of partnering with venture accelerators and potentially improve these sponsors’ capacity to select high-growth start-ups to fund and develop. This study evaluates these ideas by developing and testing three hypotheses. First, institutional reforms improve entrepreneurs’ perceived value of venture accelerators for resources that affect new venture development. Second, they reduce the average probability of being selected for new applicants, due to a surge in the number and heterogeneity of new applicants within accelerators’ local ecosystems. Third, institutional reforms increase the quality of selected cohorts for accelerator managers due to increases in the average quality and human capital of new applicants. To evaluate these hypotheses, I analyze data from 13,770 applicants to venture accelerators over multiple application cycles between 2016 and 2018 in 170 countries. I use a differences-in-differences design to estimate the effects of institutional changes on start-up selection after regulatory reforms that reduced the time and procedures to start new firms, obtain credit, and resolve bankruptcy for entrepreneurs. The findings have valuable implications for how governments, especially those in emerging and developing economies, can support high-growth entrepreneurship.

  • Valentina Assenova (2020), Early-Stage Venture Incubation and Mentoring Promote Learning, Scaling, and Profitability among Disadvantaged Entrepreneurs, Organization Science, 31 (6), pp. 1313-1620. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2020.1367

    Abstract: Socially and educationally disadvantaged entrepreneurs often lack the knowledge and prior experience to develop and scale their businesses. Owing to limited educational and employment opportunities, poverty, and discrimination, these entrepreneurs frequently experience low business growth and performance. What factors influence the effectiveness of early-stage venture incubation and mentoring for promoting learning, scaling, and profitability among these entrepreneurs? Two studies in a business incubator serving low-income, underprivileged entrepreneurs in South Africa evaluate this question. Study 1 uses a matched, two-period case-control design to investigate the effects of incubation on business growth by comparing selected and incubated companies to similar also-selected but not incubated ones. The findings show that incubated companies grew 22% more in revenue and 15% more in employment than not incubated companies over the six months between applying to and graduating from the incubator. Study 2 uses instrumental-variable models to evaluate the role that mentoring played in improving business performance by analyzing data from seven cohorts of participants in the incubator randomly assigned to mentors. The findings show that participants assigned to high-ability (versus low-ability) mentors had 3.2% higher revenue and 3.5% higher profits one year after incubation. Further, the benefits of being mentored were more significant for businesses whose entrepreneurs had less pre-entry knowledge and experience, suggesting that mentoring supplemented gaps in human capital. These findings have implications for ways to support disadvantaged entrepreneurs and their businesses through mentoring and early-stage venture incubation.

  • Neha Narain and Valentina Assenova (Working), Entrepreneurial Quality and Startup Growth in India.

    Abstract: This study estimates and maps the quality of entrepreneurship in India, using government census data for the universe of 1,542,555 registered micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with known founding dates, spanning all 29 states in India. To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind to quantify and characterize the quality of entrepreneurship in India based on cohort growth outcomes and firm characteristics at the time of founding. Methodologically, we define and estimate the probability of firms achieving two types of growth outcomes: attaining a “public” corporation status within a set timeframe after founding (5-years, 10-years, 15-years), and achieving a set annual employee growth rate. We find that firms’ cluster status at the time of founding predicted 58% higher probability of going “public” within 10 years, the original purchase value of assets predicted 62% higher probability of going public and 66% higher probability of employee growth, and that being in an urban district predicted 35% lower probability of going public and 33% lower probability of achieving employee growth. We then measure entrepreneurial quality using the results of our predictive models to calculate the Entrepreneurial Quality Index (EQI) and the Regional Entrepreneurship Cohort Potential Index (RECPI). We map the spatial distribution of entrepreneurial quality in India by EQI and RECPI, compare to patterns in the U.S., and propose directions for future research.

  • Valentina Assenova (Working), What is the Relationship between Entrepreneurship and Innovation Output? Evidence from 219 Economies over 1960–2018.

    Abstract: Entrepreneurship is widely thought to be associated with innovation, yet the prior evidence about this relationship has been mixed. For this reason, some researchers have argued that the locus of innovation lies with large, professionally managed firms rather than new entrants. This study uses the largest available panel data comprising 219 economies over 1960-2018 and instrumental variables models to estimate empirically the relationship between entrepreneurship and innovation output at a national level, testing alternative mechanisms such as new entry and reliance on professional management as drivers of innovation output. The findings show that various measures of entrepreneurship, including rates of new company registration, were positively correlated with innovation within economies over time, after accounting for potential endogeneity in this relationship. Every 10 percent increase in the number of new companies registered per capita in a calendar year was associated with a 2.4 percent increase in the number of patent applications by residents and 34.6 percent increase in the value of high-technology exports per capita over the observation period. The empirical relationship between professional management and innovation output, however, was null. These findings have important implications for the literature on entrepreneurship and innovation and for entrepreneurship policy.

Teaching

Current Courses (Fall 2022)

  • MGMT2300 - Entrepreneurship

    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.

    MGMT2300001 ( Syllabus )

  • MGMT2120 - Social Entrepreneurship

    This is a course on creating a business to attack a social problem and thereby accomplish both social impact and financial sustainability. For this course, social entrepreneurship is defined as entrepreneurship used to profitably confront social problems. This definition therefore views social entrepreneurship as a distinct alternative to public sector initiatives. The basic thesis is that many social problems, if looked at through an entrepreneurial lens, create opportunity for someone to launch a venture that generates profits by alleviating that social problem. This sets in motion a virtuous cycle - the entrepreneur is incented to generate more profits and in so doing, the more the profits made, the more the problem is alleviated. Even if it is not possible to eventually create a profit-making enterprise, the process of striving to do so can lead to a resource-lean not-for-profit entity. Creating a profitable social entrepreneurship venture is by no means a simple challenge. Cross-listed with MGMT 812.

    MGMT2120401 ( Syllabus )

  • MGMT8120 - Social Entrepreneurship

    This is a course on creating a business to attack a social problem and thereby accomplish both social impact and financial sustainability. For this course, social entrepreneurship is defined as entrepreneurship used to profitably confront social problems. This definition therefore views social entrepreneurship as a distinct alternative to public sector initiatives. The basic thesis is that many social problems, if looked at through an entrepreneurial lens, create opportunity for someone to launch a venture that generates profits by alleviating that social problem. This sets in motion a virtuous cycle - the entrepreneur is incented to generate more profits and in so doing, the more the profits made, the more the problem is alleviated. Even if it is not possible to eventually create a profit-making enterprise, the process of striving to do so can lead to a resource-lean not-for-profit entity. Creating a profitable social entrepreneurship venture is by no means a simple challenge. Cross-listed with MGMT 212.

    MGMT8120401 ( Syllabus )

All Courses

  • MGMT2120 - Social Entrepreneurship

    This is a course on creating a business to attack a social problem and thereby accomplish both social impact and financial sustainability. For this course, social entrepreneurship is defined as entrepreneurship used to profitably confront social problems. This definition therefore views social entrepreneurship as a distinct alternative to public sector initiatives. The basic thesis is that many social problems, if looked at through an entrepreneurial lens, create opportunity for someone to launch a venture that generates profits by alleviating that social problem. This sets in motion a virtuous cycle - the entrepreneur is incented to generate more profits and in so doing, the more the profits made, the more the problem is alleviated. Even if it is not possible to eventually create a profit-making enterprise, the process of striving to do so can lead to a resource-lean not-for-profit entity. Creating a profitable social entrepreneurship venture is by no means a simple challenge. Cross-listed with MGMT 812.

  • MGMT2300 - Entrepreneurship

    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.

  • MGMT8120 - Social Entrepreneurship

    This is a course on creating a business to attack a social problem and thereby accomplish both social impact and financial sustainability. For this course, social entrepreneurship is defined as entrepreneurship used to profitably confront social problems. This definition therefore views social entrepreneurship as a distinct alternative to public sector initiatives. The basic thesis is that many social problems, if looked at through an entrepreneurial lens, create opportunity for someone to launch a venture that generates profits by alleviating that social problem. This sets in motion a virtuous cycle - the entrepreneur is incented to generate more profits and in so doing, the more the profits made, the more the problem is alleviated. Even if it is not possible to eventually create a profit-making enterprise, the process of striving to do so can lead to a resource-lean not-for-profit entity. Creating a profitable social entrepreneurship venture is by no means a simple challenge. Cross-listed with MGMT 212.

  • MGMT9380 - Seminar in Social Entrep

    This half-semester course examines how social enterprise organizations emerge, attract resources, and affect society. The course will bridge micro and macro theoretical perspectives to provide insight into the unique challenges faced by social enterprises, while also showing how the study of such organizations can help to advance mainstream entrepreneurship research. Individual sessions will focus on defining social entrepreneurship, the tensions and tradeoffs that emerge in organizations that pursue social and financial goals, impact investing and other sources of finance, and the role of incubators/accelerators in supporting the development of these organizations. This is a seminar-based course with active discussion and analysis.

Awards and Honors

  • Best Paper Award, Entrepreneurship Division, Academy of Management, 2022
  • Carolyn B. Dexter All-Academy Best International Paper Award Nominee, Entrepreneurship Division, Academy of Management, 2021
  • William H. Newman All-Academy Best Dissertation Award Nominee, Entrepreneurship Division, Academy of Management, 2019
  • Editorial Board, California Management Review, 2017
  • Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Summer Institute on Organizations and their Effectiveness, Stanford University, 2017
  • Doctoral Fellowship, Yale University, 2012-2017
  • Doctoral Consortium, Organization and Management Theory, Academy of Management, 2016
  • Consortium for Competitiveness and Cooperation, Bocconi University, 2016
  • Best Graduate Student Paper Honorable Mention, Rationality and Society Section, American Sociological Association, 2016
  • Conference Travel Fellowship, Yale University, 2015-2016
  • Best International Paper, Organization and Management Theory, 2015
  • Finalist, Carolyn Dexter Award, Academy of Management, 2015
  • First Class Honors, University of Cambridge, 2012
  • Director’s Award, University of Cambridge, 2012
  • Robert & Rosalie Cort Scholarship, University of Pennsylvania, 2004-2008
  • Wharton Research Scholarship, University of Pennsylvania, 2006-2007
  • Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2005-2006

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Why Decarbonizing Energy Systems Should Be Prioritized

New research co-authored by Wharton’s Valentina Assenova refutes conventional wisdom among policymakers that economic growth is the inevitable casualty of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.Read More

Knowledge at Wharton - 10/27/2021
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