Bigger, Better, Faster, Cheaper: An Overview of American Entrepreneurship

Howard Wolk, M-RCBG Senior Fellow


Entrepreneurs are a driving force in the American economy. How do entrepreneurs identify business opportunities and create value? How do venture capitalists and angel investors make decision to invest or not?  What are the typical challenges companies face as they start to grow? How can public policy foster an economy in which entrepreneurs thrive? These overarching questions will frame the study group.

Each session will be led by Howard Wolk (MPA 2002) whose company incubates, develops, acquires and invests in an array of businesses spanning the technology, marketing and information services industries. Joining him will be one or more private sectors leaders who have started or invested in highly successful new ventures.

Space is limited. To participate, please send your name, degree program, and year to wolkstudygroup1@gmail.com no later than September 22, 2014. For questions, please contact jennifer_nash@harvard.edu.

Session Descriptions
All sessions will take place in the Hauser Conference Room, B-L-4

Session 1: Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 4:10-5:30pm What is an Entrepreneur? This session will look at various definitions of “entrepreneur” and types of industries in which they thrive.  A start-up entrepreneur and a leading early stage venture capitalist will join this session to discuss their experiences. Topics will include (i) market need that they identified, (ii) business model and business plan, (iii) getting started, (iv) raising money, (v) challenges along the way, and (vi) preliminary exit strategies.  Guests:  Eric Paley, Partner, Founder Collective; Ben Rubin, CEO/ Founder, Change Collective.

Session 2: Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 4:10-5:30pm Creating Entrepreneurial Regions. This session will look at how policymakers, regional economic development agencies and others try to foster start-ups and entrepreneurial activity in their areas.  Topics will include the roles of universities, research facilities, major local corporations, venture capital and other factors in encouraging enterprise creation and growth.  Guests:  Joe Guy, Venture for America; Georgina Campbell, MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program.

Session 3: Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 4:10-5:30pm Venture Capital, Growth Companies and Exit Strategies. This session looks more closely at the role of venture capital and venture capitalists in growing companies, including a more detailed review of the VC industry and the process by which emerging companies are valued and sold. Guests:  Joel Cutler, Partner, General Catalyst; Oisin Hanrahan, CEO/Founder, Handybook

Session 4:   Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 4:10-5:30pm Social Entrepreneurship.  This session will look at entrepreneurship in the social sector, including non-profits and “hybrid” companies.  Topics will include developing a pitch, measuring impact and performance, raising funds, and influencing policy.  Guests:  Andrew Wolk (no relation), CEO/Founder, Root Cause Institute, Social Innovation Forum; Lynn Margherio, CEO/Founder, Cradles to Crayons.


Howard L. Wolk is Co-President of The Cross Country Group (CCG), a privately-held organization consisting of technology-enabled emergency assistance, direct marketing, and customer service businesses serving global corporate clients in the automotive, insurance, real estate and financial services industries. Cross Country’s various operating companies employ approximately 3500 associates in North America and Europe and serve over 75 million of its clients’ customers. One of CCG’s companies, Agero, which administers emergency roadside assistance programs for automotive and insurance companies, was recently the subject of a Harvard Business School case study and was in the news last November for the sale of its connected vehicle unit to SiriusXM. Wolk began his career at the New York City law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, where he participated in a number of corporate finance, merger and acquisition and joint venture transactions. After Simpson Thacher, he joined the White House as Associate Counsel for the transition team during the Clinton Administration, vetting candidates for positions in the Departments of Treasury and Justice and several independent agencies. He also served as a member of Vice President Gore’s Task Force on Reinventing Government. He received B.A. and B.S.Ec. (Wharton School) degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, a J.D. degree from Columbia Law School and an M.P.A. degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He is a member of the Massachusetts, New York and DC Bar Associations, is a Trustee of the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, a member of the Board of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and an Overseer of The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He also serves on the boards of several non-profit and social entrepreneurship organizations. As a senior fellow, he is studying the nature of American entrepreneurship.

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M-RCBG Senior Fellow Howard Wolk