StartX and the Paradox of Success

Recommended paper from the Academic Entrepreneur

Published in Social Science Information

StartX and the ‘Paradox of Success’: Filling the gap in Stanford’s entrepreneurial culture

  1. Henry Etzkowitz

  1. Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research (H-STAR) Institute, Stanford University, USA
  1. Henry Etzkowitz, Stanford University, Triple Helix Research Group, Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research (H-STAR) Institute, Palo Alto, Cordura Hall, Stanford, CA 94305-2055, USA. Email:;


Stanford University’s legendary success in technology transfer, based upon a relatively small group of serial faculty entrepreneurs, masked unrealized potential residing in the underutilized inventions of less entrepreneurially experienced faculty and students. An optimum academic entrepreneurship and technology-transfer regime matches various levels of inventor interest and involvement with appropriate organizational competence and support. The ‘Paradox of Success’ is that great organizational success in licensing, or other activities, may reduce the motivation to further advancement, in the Stanford case, introducing support structures for research commercialization that are commonplace in aspiring entrepreneurial universities. Stanford had largely bought into an ideology of a self-organizing innovation ecosystem in Silicon Valley that implied lack of need for explicit entrepreneurial support structures on campus, such as incubator facilities. This belief inhibited policy intervention until a student-organized accelerator project actualizing underutilized entrepreneurial capacity demonstrated that a step change in promoting entrepreneurship at Stanford was necessary and feasible. Case studies based on archival and interview data show the development of Stanford’s entrepreneurial academic culture and university development strategy.

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