Daniel Isenberg

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Professor of Entrepreneurship Practice, Babson Executive and Enterprise Education; Author of “Worthless, Impossible and Stupid”; Former Entrepreneur and Harvard Business School Professor

Biography

Scale up entrepreneurship, according to Daniel Isenberg, is one of the keys to sustainable regional growth – a premise he continues to champion around the world. Isenberg’s unique background as entrepreneur, investor, professor, senior policy advisor and author for over 30 years has positioned him as one of the world’s most prominent leaders of entrepreneurship thought and practice.

For 11 years, Isenberg was a professor at Harvard Business School. Currently, he is a Columbia Business School adjunct professor, professor of Entrepreneurship Practice at Babson Executive Education and Enterprise, and an associate at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. He is founder and director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project, an initiative that helps regional leaders create the policies, structures, programs and climate that foster entrepreneurship. In 2014 Isenberg inaugurated Babson’s open executive program, Driving Economic Growth through Entrepreneurship Ecosystems.

In his first book, “Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), Isenberg contends that entrepreneurs see hidden value in situations where others do not, and ultimately realize extraordinary value for themselves, their customers and society as a whole. A frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review (HBR), his 2010 article, “How to Start an Entrepreneurial Revolution,” was featured as the publication’s “Big Idea,” following his seminal piece, “The Global Entrepreneur” (2008). A subsequent HBR article focuses on “Entrepreneurs and the Cult of Failure” (2011). Isenberg’s HBR blog on entrepreneurship has attracted hundreds of thousands of readers. He has also been an expert blogger for The Economist, Huffington Post and QZ.

Isenberg speaks and consults frequently on global entrepreneurship, scale up entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship ecosystems, and is often quoted as an expert voice in influential media, including The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Financial Times, Forbes, among others. He has also been interviewed on CNN, Bloomberg, WGBH and the BBC. A former entrepreneur and venture capitalist, and active angel investor, Isenberg has addressed or advised senior policy groups in more than a dozen countries, including Brazil, Israel, Denmark, Colombia, United States, Mexico and Canada. He has also keynoted on entrepreneurship policy at the G20, YES, European Commission, Organization of American States, World Economic Forum, and the Global Competitiveness Forum, and advised the White House on the initial concept of StartUp America. In 2012, Isenberg was awarded the Pio Manzu Gold Medal for “pioneering and innovative work in economic development,” signed by Mikhail Gorbachev.

In addition to Harvard, Columbia and Babson, Isenberg has taught at INSEAD, Reykjavik and the Technion. While at Harvard in the 1980s,  Isenberg conducted research programs on managerial cognition and human interaction in small groups, which resulted in his first feature HBR articles, “How Senior Managers Think” (1984) and “The Tactics of Strategic Opportunism” (1987), as well as scientific publications in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology etc. During his time at the Technion, where Isenberg created a course called Technology-Based Entrepreneurship, he directed the Tefen Entrepreneurs Program with Stef Wertheimer and also directed the Technion Entrepreneurial Associates with MIT Professor Ed Roberts.

Isenberg holds a Ph.D. degree in social psychology from Harvard University.

Daniel Isenberg is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels,and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

Startup Ministry Launches ‘ScaleUp’ Workshop in Changwon

November 15, 2017

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How to Scale Up Regional Economies (like Akron, Ohio)

April 22, 2017

Start-Ups Won’t Save the Economy. But ‘Scale Ups’ Could

March 28, 2017

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Midsize Cities Are Entrepreneurship’s Real Test

January 24, 2017

Time for Korean Entrepreneurs to Scale-Up

November 16, 2016

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The Scale Up Movement is Taking Off

November 13, 2016

Do Startups Really Create Lots of Good Jobs?

June 6, 2016

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What Schumpeter Got Wrong About Entrepreneurship and Innovation

May 5, 2016

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Entrepreneurship is Value Creation, Not Disruption

March 8, 2016

Using Supply Chains to Grow Your Business

November 20, 2015

The Right Way to Plan an Innovation Tour

July 7, 2015

Don’t Judge the Economy by the Number of Start-Ups

October 1, 2014

How to Finance the Scale-Up of Your Company

August 18, 2014

What an Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Actually Is

May 12, 2014

When Entrepreneurship Feeds Income Inequality And How It Can Change

April 21, 2014

For a Booming Economy, Bet on High Growth Firms, Not Small Businesses

February 3, 2014

4 Big Myths About Starting Your Own Company

January 21, 2014

Inc

'Entrepreneur' Has Become a Buzzword. Let's Reclaim It

November 14, 2013

The Pitfalls (and Upsides) of Partnering with Entrepreneurs

October 18, 2013

Opportunity Abounds in Milwaukee

September 27, 2013

Behind Every Great Entrepreneur Is A Great Entrepreneur

July 17, 2013

Professor Dan Isenberg On Super Chickens And The Virtues Of Being Worthless, Impossible And Stupid

July 10, 2013

When Big Companies Fall, Entrepreneurship Rises

March 18, 2013

Biography

Scale up entrepreneurship, according to Daniel Isenberg, is one of the keys to sustainable regional growth – a premise he continues to champion around the world. Isenberg’s unique background as entrepreneur, investor, professor, senior policy advisor and author for over 30 years has positioned him as one of the world’s most prominent leaders of entrepreneurship thought and practice.

For 11 years, Isenberg was a professor at Harvard Business School. Currently, he is a Columbia Business School adjunct professor, professor of Entrepreneurship Practice at Babson Executive Education and Enterprise, and an associate at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. He is founder and director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project, an initiative that helps regional leaders create the policies, structures, programs and climate that foster entrepreneurship. In 2014 Isenberg inaugurated Babson’s open executive program, Driving Economic Growth through Entrepreneurship Ecosystems.

In his first book, “Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), Isenberg contends that entrepreneurs see hidden value in situations where others do not, and ultimately realize extraordinary value for themselves, their customers and society as a whole. A frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review (HBR), his 2010 article, “How to Start an Entrepreneurial Revolution,” was featured as the publication’s “Big Idea,” following his seminal piece, “The Global Entrepreneur” (2008). A subsequent HBR article focuses on “Entrepreneurs and the Cult of Failure” (2011). Isenberg’s HBR blog on entrepreneurship has attracted hundreds of thousands of readers. He has also been an expert blogger for The Economist, Huffington Post and QZ.

Isenberg speaks and consults frequently on global entrepreneurship, scale up entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship ecosystems, and is often quoted as an expert voice in influential media, including The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Financial Times, Forbes, among others. He has also been interviewed on CNN, Bloomberg, WGBH and the BBC. A former entrepreneur and venture capitalist, and active angel investor, Isenberg has addressed or advised senior policy groups in more than a dozen countries, including Brazil, Israel, Denmark, Colombia, United States, Mexico and Canada. He has also keynoted on entrepreneurship policy at the G20, YES, European Commission, Organization of American States, World Economic Forum, and the Global Competitiveness Forum, and advised the White House on the initial concept of StartUp America. In 2012, Isenberg was awarded the Pio Manzu Gold Medal for “pioneering and innovative work in economic development,” signed by Mikhail Gorbachev.

In addition to Harvard, Columbia and Babson, Isenberg has taught at INSEAD, Reykjavik and the Technion. While at Harvard in the 1980s,  Isenberg conducted research programs on managerial cognition and human interaction in small groups, which resulted in his first feature HBR articles, “How Senior Managers Think” (1984) and “The Tactics of Strategic Opportunism” (1987), as well as scientific publications in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology etc. During his time at the Technion, where Isenberg created a course called Technology-Based Entrepreneurship, he directed the Tefen Entrepreneurs Program with Stef Wertheimer and also directed the Technion Entrepreneurial Associates with MIT Professor Ed Roberts.

Isenberg holds a Ph.D. degree in social psychology from Harvard University.

Daniel Isenberg is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels,and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Startup or Scale Up™?

The startup movement has swept the globe. But Daniel Isenberg believes we should refocus the entrepreneurship discussion from startup to scale up. Startups are snazzy and demand the limelight, but without a scale up frame of mind – a template of what real growth looks like and entails – entrepreneurs, investors, corporations and societies will not benefit from the positive potential of entrepreneurship, he explains. Not only must entrepreneurs learn the language of rapid growth, but policy makers must also remove barriers to achieving it. If the scale ups take root in any region, the startups will, to a large extent, take care of themselves, argues Isenberg. He points to such large-scale economic development interventions as Scale Up Milwaukee and Colombia as examples, and offers specific action principles that can be learned and practiced to stimulate Scale Up™ Ecosystems.

Rethinking Entrepreneurship: Celebrating the Worthless, Impossible and Stupid

Think of the word “entrepreneur” and the image of a youthful, tech savvy Silicon Valley CEO may come to mind. But that portrait is one of the many misconceptions we have when it comes to ideas about entrepreneurship, says Daniel Isenberg. Innovation and expertise – and youth – are not prerequisites to becoming a successful entrepreneur; rather, it’s recognizing extraordinary value – sometimes in worthless, impossible and stupid ideas – where others believed there was none. Real entrepreneurs create value out of a product or business that looks less valuable to everyone else, opening up opportunities for customers. Isenberg celebrates this contrarian mindset and its ability to transform society, challenging our long-held beliefs on what it takes to be successful in business.

Growing an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Light the spark of entrepreneurial spirit, and the fire of economic prosperity will begin to grow. It’s a call to action so simple, yet many leaders from across the globe still don’t know how to stimulate and support entrepreneurship. Daniel Isenberg has traveled the world to help transform policies, structures and cultures in a way that encourages long-term economic development and prosperity. Though it can take a generation to foster a self-sustaining quantity and quality of entrepreneurship, tangible progress can be made in as little as 12 to 24 months. Through his nine key principles, Isenberg shows leaders how to sow the seeds of an entrepreneurial ecosystem by designing and implementing a variety of processes, government structures and pilot programs, which sets them on the path for economic growth and extraordinary value within their region.

The Pain and Promise of Entrepreneurship Policy

Governments around the world increasingly recognize the power of entrepreneurship in transforming their economies. However, a painful gap exists between public leaders’ new commitment to fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems and their regions’ abilities to intentionally create policies and programs that will stimulate their growth. Daniel Isenberg helps guide public policy makers, civic leaders, and foundation heads and their private sector counterparts, to create a robust internal capacity to formulate and implement entrepreneurship policy in their societies. Leveraging advanced concepts, methods, cases and best practices, he empowers public leaders to establish the optimal conditions for entrepreneurship to flourish.

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Recommendations

“His speech in 2016 GEW Korea was very insightful, especially for government officials like me. His five, sequenced policy principles for developing entrepreneurship (eg labor flexibility, market encouragement, focus on scale ups) ecosystem impressed me because I hadn’t seriously thought of policy execution affecting entrepreneurship. His advice was extremely helpful for Korea and renowned Korean newspapers published his recommendations . I expect that Professor Isenberg’s speech during 2016 GEW Korea will reshape lots of related policies and people’s mindsets about Korea’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

– Youngtae Kim, Director, Small & Medium Business Administration, Host of 2016 GEW Korea

“Daniel Isenberg is an enthusiastic, passionate speaker.  He makes the effort to prepare the slides up until the presentation day, and does his best to be interactive. His presentation based on his book “Worthless, Impossible and Stupid” was easy to understand, and it goes against people’s perception. In my personal opinion, his speech was helpful for our audiences to have them think about entrepreneurship and startups from a different angle.”

–Jaeyoung Park, Event Organizer, Global Entrepreneurship Network

“Daniel Isengerg is quick witted, clear, concise and yet still entertaining!  We presented a panel together at the World Economic Forum, and I will be honored to work with and recommend him many more times!”

–Dana Leong, Award Winning Producer, Musician

“My first World Economic Forum experience was the Creative Spark session on Experimentation, which was led by Daniel Isenberg. Daniel did a marvelous job of keeping the audience and panelists all engaged emotionally and intellectually, continually keeping us thinking yet keeping the discussion moving. Daniel opened by having all the participants plan and execute an experiment in 5 minutes propelled the discussion forward, and I couldn’t believe how fast the next 40 minutes raced by.”

–René Redzepi, Founder and Chef at Noma, Copenhagen

“Thanks to the superior moderating skills of Dan Isenberg, today’s panel was one of the best discussions I have ever attended at Davos.”

–Bill George, Best-selling author of “True North” and Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School

“I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting Daniel Isenberg, one of the most strategic presenters I have worked with. Isenberg has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills while maintaining a clear sense of purpose. From beginning to end, he eagerly embraces his subject matter—entrepreneurship—with an interactive, candid and enthusiastic performance. He is an impressive speaker who is extremely energetic and a natural entrepreneur who is not only magnetic, but inspiring to all those around him.”

–Joaquin Bacardi, CEO of Bacardi Corporation

“Daniel Isenberg is a rare commodity. He has successfully crossed over from the experienced entrepreneur into being an incisive and exciting orator. This is truly a remarkable feat; a testament to this was my first hand experience of the rapt attention and subsequent excited feedback during his keynote speech at the 10th International Entrepreneurship Forum [IEF2011]. I would thoroughly recommend any organization or institution to utilize and exploit his unique talent. I myself am asked to speak internationally, and would consider that I am a mere amateur to the professionalism and polished performance that I witnessed.”

–Oliver Rothschild, Hon. Ambassador to the UN, President of ACEVO Solutions, Chairman GEOCAPITA

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Isenberg, Daniel

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