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The Burden of the Nondiversifiable Risk of Entrepreneurship

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  • Robert E. Hall
  • Susan E. Woodward

Abstract

In the standard venture capital contract, entrepreneurs have a large fraction of equity ownership in the companies they found and are paid a sub-market salary by the investors who provide the money to develop the idea. The big rewards come only to those whose companies go public or are acquired on favorable terms, forcing entrepreneurs to bear a substantial burden of idiosyncratic risk. We study this burden in the case of high-tech companies funded by venture capital. Over the past 20 years, the typical venture-backed entrepreneur earned an average of $4.4 million from companies that succeeded in attracting venture funding. Entrepreneurs with a coefficient of relative risk aversion of two and with less than $0.7 million would be better off in a salaried position than in a startup, despite the prospect of an average personal payoff of $4.4 million and the possibility of payoffs over $1 billion. We conclude that startups attract entrepreneurs with lower risk aversion, higher initial assets, preferences for entrepreneurship over employment, and optimistic beliefs about the payoffs from their products.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14219.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
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Publication status: published as Robert E. Hall & Susan E. Woodward, 2010. "The Burden of the Nondiversifiable Risk of Entrepreneurship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 1163-94, June.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14219

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  1. Gompers, Paul & Kovner, Anna & Lerner, Josh & Scharfstein, David, 2010. "Performance persistence in entrepreneurship," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 18-32, April.
  2. Catherine Casamatta, 2003. "Financing and Advising: Optimal Financial Contracts with Venture Capitalists," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(5), pages 2059-2086, October.
  3. Repullo, R. & Suarez, J., 1998. "Venture Capital Finance: a Security Design Approach," Papers 9804, Centro de Estudios Monetarios Y Financieros-.
  4. Schmidt, Klaus M., 2003. "Convertible Securities and Venture Capital Finance," Munich Reprints in Economics 19769, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "Convertible Securities and Venture Capital Finance," CEPR Discussion Papers 2317, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Robert E. Hall & Susan E. Woodward, 2007. "The Incentives to Start New Companies: Evidence from Venture Capital," NBER Working Papers 13056, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Admati, Anat R & Pfleiderer, Paul, 1994. " Robust Financial Contracting and the Role of Venture Capitalists," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(2), pages 371-402, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Wang, Chong & Wang, Neng & Yang, Jinqiang, 2012. "A unified model of entrepreneurship dynamics," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(1), pages 1-23.
  2. Hui Chen & Jianjun Miao & Neng Wang, 2009. "Entrepreneurial Finance and Non-diversifiable Risk," NBER Working Papers 14848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ramana Nanda & Matthew Rhodes-Kropf, 2012. "Innovation and the Financial Guillotine," Harvard Business School Working Papers 13-038, Harvard Business School, revised Dec 2012.
  4. Ross Levine & Yona Rubinstein, 2013. "Smart and Illicit: Who Becomes an Entrepreneur and Does it Pay?," NBER Working Papers 19276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Nanda, Ramana & Rhodes-Kropf, Matthew, 2013. "Investment cycles and startup innovation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(2), pages 403-418.
  6. Hvide, Hans K & Panos, Georgios, 2013. "Risk tolerance and entrepreneurship," CEPR Discussion Papers 9339, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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