Research Q&A with Elham Asgari

Elham Asgari
Asgari is an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Michigan Tech.

Elham (Ellie) Asgari, the Charles C. and John G. Gates Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is at the leading edge of entrepreneurship research, studying the formula of success in this high-stakes sector of business. Last month, Dr. Asgari was selected as a recipient of the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning Instructional Award for Innovative or Out-of-Class Teaching. Asgari’s selection was based on her innovative teaching strategies, including use of crowdfunding campaigns to help Huskies gauge startup interest, and working with students individually to help them prepare for regional and global investment pitches. During the 2022-23 academic year, Michigan Tech student teams collected $67,000 in pitch prize money.

Where is your research focused?

EA: My research is at the intersection of entrepreneurship, strategy, and innovation, and centers around the question of how the diversity of scientists’ and managers’ knowledge influences their pursuit of novel innovations, particularly in entrepreneurial settings. Leveraging insights from behavioral strategy, I study the significance of knowledge resources, star scientists, and the role of top managers, particularly within high-tech entrepreneurial contexts.

What inspired you to get started with this work?

EA: Entrepreneurship is truly fascinating when it intertwines with innovation. The ability to identify new opportunities, challenge norms, and bring novel ideas to life is what drives me in this domain. While entrepreneurship is associated with high failure rates, it plays a significant role in contributing to both the economy and society as a whole. The entrepreneurial infrastructure, coupled with innovation, has given rise to remarkable advancements that have greatly enhanced our lives. 

Understanding the factors that contribute to entrepreneurial success is crucial in order to inform and guide aspiring entrepreneurs, increasing their chances of achieving their goals. The educational system often neglects the importance of creativity, stifling our potential for innovation. This has motivated me to explore ways to encourage and cultivate creativity, as I believe it is a fundamental aspect of entrepreneurial endeavors.

What role does technology play in your work?

EA: Technology is a catalyst for my research, innovation, and teaching. Data-driven techniques and methods play a critical role as a methodology in my research efforts. I employ machine learning techniques, specifically text analysis, to analyze and extract insights from large volumes of textual data. This enables me to gain a deeper understanding of complex phenomena, identify patterns, and uncover meaningful trends.

Technological advancements create an ideal context for investigating novel innovations. As entrepreneurs identify real pain points and strive to address them, technology offers tools and solutions to overcome these challenges effectively. Whether it’s leveraging emerging technologies, data analytics, or digital platforms, entrepreneurs can benefit from the power of technology to develop innovative products, services, and business models.

What trends are you seeing in your field?

EA: The field of entrepreneurship is witnessing several trends. First, there is an increased emphasis on teaching entrepreneurship and recognizing its impact on entrepreneurial success. Educational institutions are incorporating entrepreneurship programs to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and knowledge. 

Second, there is growing support, both financially and through mentorship, for young entrepreneurs. Government funding and initiatives are being established to provide financial resources, while mentorship programs connect emerging entrepreneurs with experienced mentors. 

Lastly, there is a notable shift toward eco-friendly businesses and social entrepreneurship, reflecting a growing awareness of the importance of sustainability and societal impact. These trends collectively shape a more mature entrepreneurial landscape that offers increased support, resources, and opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

How does your research influence your teaching?

EA: My research significantly informs my teaching in a number of ways: I bring real-world insights and practical examples directly into the classroom. This hands-on experience bridges the gap between theory and practice, helping students understand the complexities and challenges in entrepreneurial contexts. 

My exposure to state-of-the-art literature, such as venture capital practices, emerging forms of financing, and cutting-edge methods for customer discovery and market research, enhances the depth and relevance of my teaching materials. By incorporating insights from research trends into my teaching, I equip students with up-to-date knowledge and prepare them to navigate the rapidly evolving entrepreneurial landscape. 

How do you think your research will impact the future?

EA: Entrepreneurship research plays a critical role in shaping and developing successful entrepreneurs. One key area where research has a substantial influence is in identifying critical factors that contribute to entrepreneurial success. By studying successful examples, researchers can identify common skills and mindsets that are associated with major achievements. This knowledge allows aspiring entrepreneurs to gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed and enables them to develop and cultivate these crucial attributes. Moreover, entrepreneurship research provides valuable guidance on effective business models, market trends, and innovative approaches, helping entrepreneurs make informed decisions and minimize risks. 

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accountingbusiness analyticsconstruction managementeconomicsengineering managementfinancemanagementmanagement information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.