Biography

photo of Noam T. Wasserman

Noam Wasserman is a professor at Harvard Business School. For more than a decade, his research has focused on founders’ early decisions that can make or break the startup and its team. At HBS, he developed and teaches an MBA elective, “Founders’ Dilemmas,” for which he was awarded the HBS Faculty Teaching Award and the Academy of Management’s 2010 Innovation in Pedagogy Award. In 2011, the course was also named one of the top entrepreneurship courses in the country by Inc. magazine.

His book, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup, was published in March by Princeton University Press. Both The Founder’s Dilemmas (the book) and Founders’ Dilemmas (the course) provide a roadmap for founders about the most common pitfalls they will face. The book and course integrate Noam’s research results, quantitative data collected over the last decade from 10,000 founders, case studies, and conceptual frameworks. Since 2000, he has been the lead researcher on the annual CompStudy survey of technology and life-sciences startups, which has become the most comprehensive survey of compensation for top management at private companies in the U.S. (and is now expanding to include China, India, Israel, and England). Noam is one of three members of the core faculty of the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Scholars program, and he has delivered numerous keynote addresses to meetings of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), venture capital retreats, entrepreneurship conferences, and other groups.Noam’s research has been published in Harvard Business Review (his 2008 article on “The Founder’s Dilemma” became an HBS Publishing best seller), the Academy of Management Journal (2006), Organization Science (2003, 2008), the Best Paper Proceedings of the Academy of Management (2004, 2006), and other publications. He won Harvard’s George S. Dively award for dissertation research and the Aage Sorensen Memorial Award for sociological research, and for four straight years won the Outstanding Reviewer award from the Academy of Management (Business Policy and Strategy division). Noam received his PhD from Harvard University in 2002, and received an MBA (with High Distinction) from Harvard Business School in 1999, graduating as a Baker Scholar.

Despite being voted “Most Likely to Become a CEO” by his MBA section, Noam decided to pursue academia as a career and to enter the PhD program (thereby giving up on ever becoming a CEO!). Before coming to Harvard, he was a Principal and Practice Manager at a management-consulting firm near Washington, D.C., where he founded and led the Groupware Practice. He also worked as a venture capitalist at a firm in Boston. He received a BSE (magna cum laude) in Computer Science and Engineering from Penn, and a BSEcon (magna cum laude) in Corporate Finance and Strategic Management from Wharton. He lives in Brookline, MA, with his wife and seven children, loves coaching Little League, and completed Shas in 1997-2005 with the 11th Daf Yomi cycle.