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Alumnus, Harvard Business Professor Sees Innovation Economy as Offering Opportunities for Creativity
April 12, 2012
"There's nothing like a recession to raise the entrepreneurial
spirit in smart people," says Felda Hardymon, a venture capitalist,
Harvard Business School professor, and 1969 Rose-Hulman Institute
of Technology mathematics graduate. Hardymon spends a lot of time
gauging entrepreneurial spirit and has concluded that there's a lot
to like about today's business climate.
||Dr. Felda Hardymon, Harvard Business Professor/RHIT Math
Huh? Today's business climate?
"Open a newspaper and all you read is how terrible everything
is," Hardymon acknowledges, noting tepid growth and stubbornly high
long-term unemployment. "But there's another economy out there
that's growing very fast and is short on people, and that's the
Hardymon is a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, a global
venture firm with $4 billion under management. The firm's money is
in about 140 innovative companies right now, "and at least 120 are
short on people and having trouble hiring."
Among the biggest developments fueling today's innovation
economy is what Hardymon calls "big data"--the emerging technology
required to effectively store the huge volumes of electronic data
being produced these days. "Ten years ago there were a handful of
commercial databases in the public sphere that were larger than 10
terabytes," he notes. Today, "Facebook collects more than 10
terabytes a week."
Small, entrepreneurial companies are discovering and
commercializing solutions to these kinds of challenges, and they're
creating lots of jobs in the process, Hardymon says. The ones that
succeed "have people working at one problem 16 hours a day because
they have to. It's not just their agility--they outwork the
Hardymon has observed countless companies, from academic posts
and the front lines in the business world. By the time he finished
his Rose-Hulman studies, he knew he wanted an academic career, so
he earned master's and doctoral degrees at Duke University.
He returned to school to earn a Harvard MBA, then landed a job
in 1979 with the venture capital arm of General Electric. The
innovation economy was thriving. "There was so much innovation
going on," he recalls, adding, "That's what's happening again
In 1981, he joined Bessemer. There, he invested in a wide range
of young companies in software, communications, and retailing, from
American Superconductor to Wavesmith. In 1998, he returned to teach
at Harvard, beginning a dual academia and venture capital career.
He has since developed venture capital curriculum and has his name
on several academic books.
Hardymon now enjoys the best of both worlds. He can teach,
write, and even take time off from Harvard to be a visiting
professor in London. But he still gets to interact directly with
the innovation economy, and for him, that's awe-inspiring. "Every
day, I'm meeting people who are creating the future," he says. "No
one knows exactly what's going to happen, but they have a hand in