Academic entrepreneurship, the establishment of new companies based on technologies derived from university research, is a well-recognized driver of regional and national economic development. For more than a decade, scholars have conceptualized individual university faculty as the primary agents of academic entrepreneurship. Recent research suggests that graduate students also play a critical role in the establishment and early development of university spinoff companies, but the nature of their involvement through the entrepreneurial process is not yet fully understood. Employing a case study approach, this paper investigates the role of graduate students in early-stage university spinoff companies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We find that graduate students play role similar to that of individual faculty entrepreneurs in university spinoffs, both in terms of making the initial establishment decision and in reconfiguring the organization for marketable technology development. We also find that student entrepreneurs face unique challenges involving conflicts with faculty advisors and other students.
Hayter, C. S., Lubynsky, R., & Maroulis, S. (2016). Who is the academic entrepreneur? The role of graduate students in the development of university spinoffs. Journal of Technology Transfer. Published online, 16 March 2016,