#3 Ulrich Kaiser

I hold a chaired professorship in Entrepreneurship at the University of Zurich and a ten-percent professorship at Copenhagen Business School, Department of Innovation and Organizational Economics. I previously held positions at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and the Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim (ZEW). My academic degrees Diplom-Volkswirt (Master of Science in Economics) and Dr. rer. pol. (PhD) are both from the University of Konstanz. I am additionally affiliated with ZEW and the Centre for Industrial Economics at the University of Copenhagen. I conduct empirical research in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy.





Guest Professor
Tel: +45 38154247
E-mail: uk.ino@cbs.dk
Department of Innovation
and Organizational Economics

What is your understanding of entrepreneurship?

It is a bit of a generic textbook answer but I believe it is true: It is the process by which individuals pursue opportunities without regard for the resources they currently control. That is, they have an idea, recognise that there is also an associated opportunity and then begin to collect the funds and resources to pull the project off.

What characterises an entrepreneur as an individual?

Research has so far not been able to show that entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs differ genetically. It has, however, been shown that they differ in terms of their personal traits. Most importantly, entrepreneurs have a lot of passion for their business and are willing to make big sacrifices to get their business up and running. Second, they have a keen focus on customers (and not on technological aspects). Third, they are good at getting things done – they raise the funds they need, put together a team that works, establish partnerships and motivate employees (easy, as they are passionate about their business, see above). Fourth, they have a huge amount of tenacity and do not give up as soon as they encounter the first setbacks.

What does this mean for university education, or education more generally?

We cannot really change personal traits. What we can do, however, is endow students with the skills that facilitate becoming and – more importantly – being an entrepreneur. Students should have skills in all kinds of disciplines, just like in Lazear’s jack-of-all-trades model. They clearly need to learn how to write a business plan. They also need to acquire more mundane skills like accounting, which most people with the personal traits discussed above would disregard. Knowledge about human resource management will also help, as will courses in strategy. Most importantly perhaps, however, is that students learn how to express themselves orally and in writing.

 What is the role and function of entrepreneurship for private companies and for
the public sector?

The option of starting an own business gives people the option to be their own boss and to do what they actually wish to do. Many entrepreneurs are convinced about their business and believe that their product or service makes the world a better place (they are, well … passionate). These products or services – at least the ones that succeed – indeed make life easier for both the humble consumer and the established firms.

Many entrepreneurs conceived their idea while working with a corporation. Think of the founders of SAP. IBM, their employer, turned down their idea. And yet, SAP proved to be quite useful for both the private and the public sector (and for the army of consultants who implement their software, not to mention the founders themselves).

The threat of new entrants perhaps also makes the lazy incumbent more innovative. After all, the monopolist enjoys an easy life – until the first challenger pops up.

In what sense is entrepreneurship important for society?

Many important innovations have been brought about by start-ups. Think of Red Bull, which keeps our students awake. But we should also bear in mind that entrepreneurship is a viable option for minorities who are otherwise marginalised on the labour market.

Entrepreneurship also constitutes a challenge, like for example the collection of private and sensitive data by social networks.

To whom do you pass on the baton?
Wolfgang Sofka


The page was last edited by: Entrepreneurship Platform // 06/23/2021