Academic Journal Honors Late Entrepreneurship Leader John Freeman

The late John Freeman, founding faculty director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and a pioneer in the study of venture creation, was honored in a special section of the latest issue (February 2012) of the journal Industrial and Corporate Change.

Freeman became faculty director of the Haas School's Lester Center for Entrepreneurship in 1993 and was a leader in the field of entrepreneurship and organizational ecology, which explores the process of the birth and death of firms. Investigating organizational ecology and its impact on innovation led to an interest in entrepreneurship for Freeman, who died in 2008.

The special section in Industrial and Corporate Change traces its origins to a conference in honor of Freeman held at Haas in 2010. Haas Professor David Teece and Adjunct Professor Jerry Engel, the Lester Center's founding executive director emeritus, helped organize the conference. The pair contributed an article to the journal's special section titled "John Freeman: entrepreneurship and innovation defined – a personal remembrance."

"One of John's earliest contributions at Berkeley was his insightful insistence that at Berkeley we define entrepreneurship as the study of the emergence of new firms," Engel and Teece write. "This is not an obvious conclusion and did not reflect the consensus of the time (nor even today)." 

They noted that entrepreneurship could mean many things: leadership in the innovation process, managing family-run businesses, or new product creation. "John was clear that to establish clarity and focus especially at an institution nestled as it was in the Silicon Valley ecosystem, new-venture formation should be the sole and constant focus of its Center for Entrepreneurship," they write.

They note Freeman went on to revitalize the school's curriculum, re-creating its core entrepreneurship course to focus on new venture creation, and became personally involved in mentoring and nurturing new ventures and young entrepreneurs. "He also showed how to bridge theory and action, and have each benefit from the other," they add.

In addition to the remembrance, the special section features articles by students of Freeman and people he spent a lot of time with at the beginning of their careers, and reflects perspectives that Freeman developed or topics of interest to him. 

The issue also includes a project that Freeman was working on at the time of his death, titled "Why is there no cannery in 'Cannery Row'? Exploring a behavioral simulation model of population extinction." Other articles cover such topics as mortality in the U.S. venture capital industry and the impact of the Sept. 11 attack on business founding.