Research Meeting Programme and Registration

Thursday 4 June 2020 - Sofia Bapna on improving professional networking for women
15:00 BST
Interventions for improving professional networking for women: Experimental evidence from the IT sector

Sofia Bapna, University of Minnesota

Discussant: Karim Lakhani, Harvard Business School

Professional networks are vital for individuals' career advancement. Research demonstrates, however, that in fields where women are a minority (such as in many STEM fields), they are often disadvantaged in their access to such networks. Using a randomized field experiment at an IT conference, we found that women had worse networking outcomes than men. Relative to men, women met 42% fewer new contacts, spent 48% less time talking to them, and added 25% fewer LinkedIn connections. We theorized that in fields where women are underrepresented (e.g., IT) two networking barriers—search and social—differentially affect men and women. We designed and experimentally tested interventions for reducing these barriers. The search intervention was designed to facilitate locating diverse contacts and information. The social intervention was designed to facilitate helping behavior and connecting across social boundaries. We find that the search intervention increased the number of new contacts women met by 57%, the time they spent talking with them by 90%, the number of LinkedIn connections they added by 29%, and their odds of changing jobs by a factor of 1.6. The social intervention increased the time women spent talking to new contacts by 66%. The interventions did not improve men's outcomes. Our results show that simple interventions can help women grow their networks and find jobs. 

If you missed the webinar - watch the recording online now!

Thursday 11 June 2020 - Michael Leatherbee on the effects of structured accountability on new ventures
15:00 BST
Better to Flee From Freedom? Testing the Effects of Structured Accountability on New Venture Performance

Michael Leatherbee, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Discussant: Anna Valero, London School of Economics 

Policies to promote entrepreneurial activity have received much attention in recent years. However, there is still much to learn about which policies actually work, and what are the exact mechanisms by which they do. We explore the effects of structured accountability, a policy that encourages founders to periodically express their strategic plans and progress in front of others.

Our prior is that, by relying on preemptive self-criticism, commitment and progressive deadlines, founders may be guided down a more productive path than left to their own accord. We conduct randomized controlled trial on a balanced sample of 360 business accelerator participant startups. Treated participants are provided with monthly structured accountability sessions during six months. We quantify the performance of startups using measures typically used in the literature. Preliminary evidence indicates that structured accountability affects the value created by new ventures.

If you missed the webinar - watch the recording online now!

Thursday 18 June 2020 - Florian Münch on helping SMEs climb the quality ladder
15:00 BST
Helping SMEs Climb the Quality Ladder - but how?

Florian Münch, TU Berlin

Discussant: Ana Goicoechea, The World Bank Group

Productivity differentials between countries and between firms in developed and developing countries explain substantial shares of global wealth differences. Yet, albeit high potential for technological catch-up in theory, technological catch-up remain unrealised (Lucas 1989, Cirera and Maloney, 2017). Governments in developing countries run support programs for SMEs that include financial incentives or training related to quality assurance - yet there is few evidence about the effect of these programs on firms' exports and innovation performance (e.g. World Bank 2011). Existing evidence about quality assurance comes from developed countries and relies on macroeconomic, often correlational rather than microeconomic, (quasi-) experimental analysis (e.g. Blind 2017). Our RCT focuses on two ideas to realise technological catch-up. Firstly, we examine the role of quality (assurance services) in connecting SMEs in Tunisia with international markets and the role of quality (assurance services) for firms' innovation activity. For this purpose, we conduct a RCT in cooperation with the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and SMEs and the German Metrology Institute. The aim of the RCT is to evaluate three measures designed to stimulate SME's consumption of quality assurance services (QAS) in Tunisia. We formulated the following hypotheses why SMEs don't use QAS without government support. Firstly, SMEs may lack information. For example, about two thirds (ITC 2018) to almost 80 percent (WB 2001) state that it is difficult to find information about conformity assessment. Secondly, SMEs may lack competences. For instance, an internal PTB study found that even among the top 100 Tunisian exporters competence and understanding of the commercial use of industrial QIS is low. Thirdly, SMEs may lack cash. Conformity assessment is one component of fixed costs of export (Baldwin 2001, Melitz 2003) that two thirds of northern African firms perceive as expensive (ITC 2018). The research design is the following. The RCT has three treatments and each responds to one hypothesis. Group one receives an information treatment that consists of a workshop and an online follow-up. Group two receives in addition an investment plan from a techno-commercial consultant that details the QAS SMEs could use to improve product quality and export success. The third group is also offered a 50:50 matching grant for QAS. The fourth group is a control group. Interested and eligible firms are randomly allocated to the groups. We measure the effect on intermediate outcomes (knowledge, willingness to pay for QAS) and final outcomes (innovation, export) in three follow-up surveys.

If you missed the webinar - watch the recording online now!

Thursday 25 June 2020 - Amisha Miller on whether equity investors can be more diverse in funding
15:00 BST
Changing the System Not the Seeker: How Can Equity Investors Fund More Diverse Investments?

Amisha Miller, Boston University 

Discussant: Ina Ganguli, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Equity investment typically flows to startups led by white, male founders, leading to a stark gender gap in developed and emerging markets. While part of the disparity may be explained by differences in male-led and female-led ventures, a significant proportion is unexplained, and there is growing evidence that suggests investors are biased towards men. Promising women-led ventures fail to receive funding, and investors miss out on high-performing investments. While past studies have offered insights on how women can obtain investment by behaving more like men, we propose a study that aims to test investor-focused interventions at the individual and organizational levels. Specifically, we will conduct qualitative research to better understand investment criteria at the individual investor level, as well as organizational-level characteristics of investment firms, followed by a series of lab-in the-field and field experiments. Drawing on the diversity in hiring literature, we will test whether having investors weight criteria prior to assessment reduces the gender gap. Second, we will test whether using "harder" firm-based criteria such as those used in venture debt (rather than "softer" entrepreneur-based criteria) results in more women receiving investment. Finally, we will test whether newer investors (who are less socialized into their organizations) are more likely to invest in women. We propose to test these interventions at conferences attended by investment professionals in "lab in the field" settings, where investors will be shown four case examples of ventures (varying the gender of the entrepreneur) and asked to rate the ventures, state who they would invest in, and whether they would be interested in learning more about the venture. Finally, we will test whether the most promising lab-tested interventions work in a true "field" setting with actual $50,000 investments in partnership with an entrepreneurship accelerator operating in Asia and Africa. Overall, we aim to contribute to the entrepreneurial finance and impact investing literatures and uncover a broader set of criteria that can be considered in investment decisions to improve diversity in equity investment.

Recording will be available soon!

Thursday 2 July 2020 - Leonardo Iacovone on modernising small-scale retailers
15:00 BST
Modernising Small-Scale Retailers: Customer-facing vs. Product-facing Modernisation

Leonardo Iacovone, World Bank and Hertie School

Discussant: Christopher Woodruff, Oxford University

Micro and small businesses are ubiquitous and employ a substantial share of the population. In Mexico, more than 54% of active population is employed in micro and small businesses, this share is even higher in LDCs with the World Development Report (2013) estimating that 1.5 billion people worldwide are employed by this type of businesses. Recent research suggests that substantial economic growth can occur in urban centers of emerging markets if significant numbers of small firms increase their productivity and transition into medium or large enterprises. Yet, the reality is that few emerging market firms manage to scale-up (Ardagna and Lusardi 2008; Schoar 2010; Hsieh and Klenow 2014). This problem is particularly salient for retailers given the prevalence of such firms in urban centers and the critical logistics role they play in distributing goods from international suppliers to local consumers. One constraint to scaling-up for these small retailers is lack of formalization (de Mel, McKenzie and Woodruff 2011; McKenzie and Sakho 2010). Indeed, most emerging market retailers operate informally and do not implement modern management practices. Thus, understanding how small retailers can be brought into the formal sector of the economy is of interest to policy makers, academics, and managers of the multinationals that transact with and serve these firms.

If you missed the webinar - watch the recording online now!

Thursday 9 July 2020 - Hannah Wood on innovative support schemes for manufacturings SMEs
15:00 BST
RCT4MANU: Test an innovative support scheme for manufacturing SMEs and accelerate the use of RCTs in innovation agencies

Hannah Wood, Innovate UK

Discussant: Gonzalo Nunez Chaim, London School of Economics 

There is a strong driver from UK Government to use an evidence-based model when it comes to policy decision making. As such, there is a strong focus within UK R&D funding agencies to ensure robust methodologies are used when evaluating policies and funding programmes. 4Manufacturing® is a tool developed by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) to use in one-to-one support sessions with manufacturing businesses. Its purpose is to provide a framework to help manufacturing firms identify challenges and productivity improvement areas as well as strategies to address them, mainly through the adoption of industrial digital technologies (IDTs). Barriers faced by manufacturing firms that limit adoption of technology include a lack of awareness of available technology and how this can be used within the business, a lack of confidence in identifying suitable solutions and expertise, lack of finance and lack of time to invest in exploring different solutions. The tool and accompanying support aims to address these barriers by signposting businesses to relevant expertise (often third-party organisations) to explore different technology areas, funding opportunities, and acts as a catalyst for businesses to increase their knowledge of IDTs and the capability/productivity improvements it could offer. The RCT4MANU trial, run in partnership between KTN and Innovate UK aims to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the 4Manufacturing® support in the adoption of IDTs within small and medium sized businesses. The randomised control trial will offer 4Manufacturing® support to an intervention group at the beginning of a twelve-month intervention period. The number of technology adoptions will be compared to a control group who received no such support. It is expected that 4Manufacturing® support will increase the average number of IDTs adopted in businesses by 20%. Randomised control trials are a lesser used methodology in innovation policy, partly due to their complexity and the expertise required to design and execute an unbiased and internally valid trial. One of the aims of the project is to evaluate the suitability of RCTs as an evaluation method, if successful, the project will be used as an exemplar within UK Research and Innovation as to the benefits of using RCTs.

If you missed the webinar - watch the recording online now!