Dr. Justin W. Webb, Belk Distinguished Professor of Business Innovation
To produce ideas and processes that add value to business, customers and society, innovation is an integral part of business. As part of a $5 million gift to the Belk College of Business, Dr. Justin W. Webb joined the College and is the Belk Distinguished Professor of Business Innovation. In addition to creating curriculum and teaching courses on innovation, Webb is conducting research on the entrepreneurship process, market-based solutions to poverty and family firm dynamics. A founding member of the Social Impact Research Lab, Webb is dedicated to working with nonprofit and for-profit organizations to improve the implementation of poverty solutions.
Why do you study entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is particularly important to me because there is so much new, cool stuff constantly emerging in the world through the actions of entrepreneurs. Look at crowdfunding – these are platforms, founded by entrepreneurs, through which other entrepreneurs solicit funding from the general public. These platforms did not exist five to ten years ago, and so there is so much that we don’t know. For example, we don’t know how entrepreneurs communicate on these platforms to more effectively attract funding. Given that it is the general public providing funding and not an expert venture capitalist, we don’t know how the general public might respond in different ways to various pieces of information or visual cues embedded in the entrepreneur’s request for funding.
Similarly, nonprofit organizations’ use of more market-based solutions – that is, more entrepreneurial solutions – to address poverty in developing markets of Africa, Asia, and Latin America is a relatively new set of phenomena that stems from the realization that charity alone is not going to be sufficient or lasting to address global needs. This shift in thinking raises so many new questions in terms of how to implement these entrepreneurial solutions when there is a lack of transportation infrastructure, inefficient contract enforcement, limited educational institutions, and extreme poverty where individuals live on income of only $1-2 per day.
Finally, most business scholars study what goes on inside organizations. Entrepreneurs are the individuals that actually create the organizations! I want to know what drives those individuals.
What are you teaching?
I’ve started out teaching the general entrepreneurship and strategy courses here, but I’m excited to begin rolling out the new Entrepreneurship and Corporate Venturing courses starting Fall 2018. This program is offered as a concentration in our MBA program and as a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The program will help our students develop entrepreneurial competencies (e.g., recognizing and evaluating opportunities; creating and conveying a vision) via a balanced approach of theory, practice, and entrepreneur engagement.
What's new in fall 2018?
Entrepreneurial Decisions! This course (MBAD 5300; MGMT 4300) is open to both our MBAs and any interested graduate and undergraduate UNC Charlotte student. Each week, two or three entrepreneurs will discuss the challenges they faced and the decisions they made around a specific entrepreneurship topic. Topics include “Capital: How much? What type? When,” “The Individual vs. the Team; Why Individuals Matter in Entrepreneurship, and Why Teams Matter More,” and “Starting with Nothing: How to do Big Things When Your Bank Account is Small (or Empty).” This course exemplifies what we plan to achieve in our entrepreneurship programming by allowing our students to learn from and engage directly with entrepreneurs.
What does innovation mean to you?
Innovations are the essence of entrepreneurship and are the key to economic development and improved quality of life. If you look back just a few hundred years, in general, societies throughout the world were on a fairly level economic foundation. Through innovation, some societies such as the U.S. and Western Europe have experienced significant economic development and improvements in the quality of living. This significant potential for development that is spurred by innovation and entrepreneurship is what motivates my scholarly activities to improve our understanding of how some institutional environments support more and higher quality entrepreneurship, and how entrepreneurs interact with their environments to improve the attractiveness of opportunities available.