Founding Entrepreneurs Have Similar Brain Patterns for Their Children and Their Startups

(p. R6) A study published in the Journal of Business Venturing in March 2019 looked at the brain patterns of 21 entrepreneurs and 21 parents who weren’t entrepreneurs. The goal was to investigate why and how company founders bond with their ventures.

The result: When entrepreneurs think about their businesses, their brain patterns are very similar to the brain patterns of parents thinking about their children. Those findings shed light on why entrepreneurs run companies the way they do—and how they ought to.

. . .

In the experiment, researchers used a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging to see which parts of the participants’ brains were activated by a series of pictures. Entrepreneurs were shown photos of their business—such as the logo and product or service—as well as of other companies. The parents saw images of their own children, and other people’s.

The results were very similar for both test groups. When looking at the images of their own businesses or children, they experienced significantly more activity in the caudate nuclei, regions of the brain associated with parenting, as well as pleasant sensations and rewards, according to Tom Lahti, an associate professor at the Hanken School of Economics, in Helsinki, who co-wrote the study.

Meanwhile, when the test subjects viewed the images of the other companies or children, parts of the brain associated with negative emotional experiences, the bilateral insula, were much more active.

. . .

. . ., the emotional ties help explain why so many entrepreneurs are prepared to delay monetary gratification and stick with a venture in hopes of long-term success, Dr. Lahti says. That’s akin to parents making years of sacrifices on behalf of their children.

. . .

“The lead entrepreneur needs to share the responsibilities and ownership with the co-founders,” Dr. Lahti says, adding, “In some entrepreneurial teams, the lead entrepreneur may perceive [himself or herself as] owning the venture, while the other members of the entrepreneurial team do not. This could ultimately be a recipe for disaster, because the other members may not persist in the face of difficulty and setback.”

For the full story, see:

Cheryl Winokur Munk. “My Company, My Child.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, June 3, 2021): R6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 2, 2021, and has the title “Why Many Entrepreneurs Treat Their Businesses Like Their Children.”)

The research discussed above was published in:

Lahti, Tom, Marja-Liisa Halko, Necmi Karagozoglu, and Joakim Wincent. “Why and How Do Founding Entrepreneurs Bond with Their Ventures? Neural Correlates of Entrepreneurial and Parental Bonding.” Journal of Business Venturing 34, no. 2 (March 2019): 368-88.

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