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The Unicorn's Shadow
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The Unicorn's Shadow
Combating the Dangerous Myths that Hold Back Startups, Founders, and Investors

Ethan Mollick

116 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Cloth 2020 | ISBN 9781613631430 | $45.00s | Outside the Americas £36.00
Paper 2020 | ISBN 9781613630969 | $17.99t | Outside the Americas £13.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Wharton School Press

"Not every successful startup was created by a hoodie-wearing genius spending long nights working out of his garage, argues Mollick, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who specializes in innovation and entrepreneurship . . . . By examining a wealth of evidence and academic studies, the author moves beyond jargon and accepted wisdom to highlight the issues that startup founders need to consider and the obstacles they may have to overcome. For example, he illustrates why having a youthful founder can sometimes hinder, rather than help, a company's chances at success; puts paid to the notion that there's one specific entrepreneurial personality type; shows why chasing venture capital cash may not be the right choice for every startup; and explains how a company's culture can be set (for better or for worse) in its earliest days. Along the way, he offers concrete, evidence-based advice that will help would-be founders achieve their goals. There's useful information here for readers at all stages of the startup journey, including those who are struggling to find an 'it' idea that will wow both customers and investors. Mollick includes a nuanced dissection of the idea- generation process, showing how to come up with business concepts by looking at 'the means at their disposal'—what knowledge or connections they already have—rather than focusing on where they want to end up. Readers will come away with a better understanding of startup myths as well as a framework that they can use to "match the expectations of the monomyth where you can, while pushing the boundaries in areas that matter to you . . . . Convincingly punctures some pervasive misconceptions about startup success."
—Kirkus Reviews
Bringing hard data to the way we think about entrepreneurial success, this bold call to action draws on the latest scientific evidence to dispel the most pervasive startup myths and light a path to entrepreneurship for those eclipsed by the hype.

When you think of a successful entrepreneur, who comes to mind? Bill Gates? Mark Zuckerberg? Or maybe even Jesse Eisenberg, the man who played Zuckerberg in The Social Network? It may surprise you that most successful founders look very different from Zuckerberg or Gates. In fact, most startup origin stories are very different from the famous "unicorns" that have achieved valuations of over $1 billion, from Facebook to Google to Uber.

In The Unicorn's Shadow: Combating the Dangerous Myths that Hold Back Startups, Founders, and Investors, Wharton School professor Ethan Mollick takes us to the forefront of an empirical revolution in entrepreneurship. New data and better research methods have overturned the conventional wisdom behind what a successful founder looks like, how they succeed, and how the startup ecosystem works.

Among the issues he examines:
  • Which founders are most likely to succeed?
  • Where do the best startup ideas come from?
  • What's the most foolproof way of securing the funding needed to take a company to the next level?
  • Should your sales pitch really be something out of Hollywood?
  • What's the best way to grow and scale your company and create a thriving culture that won't hinder expansion?

Mollick argues that entrepreneurship is too important, both for society and for the individuals who start companies, to be eclipsed by the shadows of unicorns. He shows we can democratize entrepreneurship—but only by following an evidence-based approach that puts to rest the false narratives that surround it.

Ethan Mollick is an associate professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies and teaches innovation and entrepreneurship, with a special emphasis on how to give everyone more opportunities to be innovative and entrepreneurial. His papers have been published in top management journals and have won multiple awards. His work on crowdfunding is the most cited article in management published in the last five years.

Prior to his time in academia, he cofounded a startup company, and he currently advises a number of startups and organizations. As the academic director and co-founder of Wharton Interactive, he is working to transform entrepreneurship education using games and simulations. He has had a long interest in using games for teaching, and coauthored a book on the intersection between video games and business that was named one of the American Library Association's top 10 business books of the year. He has built numerous teaching games, used by tens of thousands of students around the world.

Mollick received his PhD and MBA from MIT's Sloan School of Management and his bachelor's degree from Harvard University, magna cum laude.

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