Babson Entrepreneur Experience Lab

Elements of the Entrepreneur Experience

Research Methodology

Six months. Over 250 entrepreneurs from familiar entrepreneurship hotspots and their lesser-known counterparts. A first-person, national characterization of entrepreneurship.

How do people actually experience entrepreneurship? This was the central question we sought to address in the first phase of research in the Babson Entrepreneur Experience Lab. To discover the answer, we modeled our approach on thinking like a designer. Using a human-centered design process—one that begins by including the very people we are designing for—we were able to walk in the shoes of entrepreneurs, to listen to their stories, and to see their world as they see it. The research plan integrated a core set of ethnographic methods that ensured significant exposure to the people, places, and things that make up the entrepreneur’s experience.

All research activities took place in the field or remotely through an online research platform. With fieldwork, we were able to interact with participants at a single point in time in the same location. With “web work,”  we could bring a group of entrepreneurs from different places and of different types into one environment and engage them in a variety of research activities, asynchronously, over a period of weeks. The two approaches combined gave us deep insight into the entrepreneur experience.

To get the appropriate mix of entrepreneurs, we chose ecosystems and entry points as the primary criteria for participant recruitment. With little consensus in the literature and no generally accepted framework to quantify and compare ecosystems across geographies, entrepreneurial activity was used as a gauge for the relative strength of entrepreneurship ecosystems and as a basis for selecting locations in which to conduct our research. With no generally accepted definition of an entrepreneur, we worked towards a mix of traditional startups, family businesses, social enterprises, franchises and business acquisitions to ensure an appropriate diversity and range of experiences for optimal insight generation.