Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed--and What to Do About It

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Overview

Silicon Valley, Singapore, Tel Aviv--the global hubs of entrepreneurial activity--all bear the marks of government investment. Yet, for every public intervention that spurs entrepreneurial activity, there are many failed efforts that waste untold billions in taxpayer dollars. When has governmental sponsorship succeeded in boosting growth, and when has it fallen terribly short? Should the government be involved in such undertakings at all? Boulevard of Broken Dreams is the first extensive look at the ways governments have supported entrepreneurs and venture capitalists across decades and continents. Josh Lerner, one of the foremost experts in the field, provides valuable insights into why some public initiatives work while others are hobbled by pitfalls, and he offers suggestions for how public ventures should be implemented in the future.

Discussing the complex history of Silicon Valley and other pioneering centers of venture capital, Lerner uncovers the extent of government influence in prompting growth. He examines the public strategies used to advance new ventures, points to the challenges of these endeavors, and reveals the common flaws undermining far too many programs--poor design, a lack of understanding for the entrepreneurial process, and implementation problems. Lerner explains why governments cannot dictate how venture markets evolve, and why they must balance their positions as catalysts with an awareness of their limited ability to stimulate the entrepreneurial sector.

As governments worldwide seek to spur economic growth in ever more aggressive ways, Boulevard of Broken Dreams offers an important caution. The book argues for a careful approach to government support of entrepreneurial activities, so that the mistakes of earlier efforts are not repeated.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
[A] useful book . . .
— David Brooks
Boston Globe
Can governments spark start-up activity and job creation by getting into the venture capital business? Or do they just waste taxpayer money whenever they try? Those are the two questions that animate the new book from Harvard Business prof Josh Lerner, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. . . . [W]hile the stories of failures are entertaining, what's most useful about Boulevard are the examples of governments that have gotten it right. . . . [A] really readable collection of data, anecdotes, and thoughtful arguments.
— Scott Kirsner
National Post
Today, calls for more innovation and entrepreneurship are more fashionable than ever, especially within government, where politicians and bureaucrats wastefully attempt to manufacture, via policy and subsidies, fresh batches of master agents and adventurers. But can government policy trigger entrepreneurship and subsequent growth? The title of a new book suggests not, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, by Harvard professor Josh Lerner. Much of Broken Dreams is a first-rate handbook for policy makers keen to avoid interventions that have proven track records as disasters. Lerner produces example after example of bad program design, bad implementation and plain dumb, even corrupt, policy making.
— Terence Corcoran
BizEd Magazine
During economic turmoil, many look to the government to boost the economy by investing in entrepreneurship. But is that a good idea? Josh Lerner wrestles with that question in Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which considers the history of the public sector's involvement in entrepreneurship and venture capitalism—what's worked, from Silicon Valley to Singapore, and what's gone horribly awry. . . This book aims to steer policymakers in the right direction.
MIT Sloan Management Review
Lots of governments would like to promote high-tech entrepreneurship and venture capital in their regions—but many don't know how to do it effectively. In his new book Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Josh Lerner . . . examines which types of policies to promote entrepreneurship and venture capital tend to work—and which don't. Lerner supports his carefully researched analysis with numerous examples chosen from around the globe.
New York Times

[S]uperb.
— Edward L. Glaeser
Local Economy
The book is instructive, well researched and contains some wise lessons from the past in terms of the government's role in promoting entrepreneurship and growth businesses. . . . [T]ake note, politicians and mandarins: this book can provide much-needed advice and perhaps a shortcut to developing more effective policies. . . . [R]ecommended reading to any local economic development practitioner who takes an interest in the big policy questions of today, and [it has] direct relevance to local economic development.
— Glenn Athey
New York Times' - Edward L. Glaeser
[S]uperb.
Boston Globe - Scott Kirsner
Can governments spark start-up activity and job creation by getting into the venture capital business? Or do they just waste taxpayer money whenever they try? Those are the two questions that animate the new book from Harvard Business prof Josh Lerner, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. . . . [W]hile the stories of failures are entertaining, what's most useful about Boulevard are the examples of governments that have gotten it right. . . . [A] really readable collection of data, anecdotes, and thoughtful arguments.
National Post - Terence Corcoran
Today, calls for more innovation and entrepreneurship are more fashionable than ever, especially within government, where politicians and bureaucrats wastefully attempt to manufacture, via policy and subsidies, fresh batches of master agents and adventurers. But can government policy trigger entrepreneurship and subsequent growth? The title of a new book suggests not, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, by Harvard professor Josh Lerner. Much of Broken Dreams is a first-rate handbook for policy makers keen to avoid interventions that have proven track records as disasters. Lerner produces example after example of bad program design, bad implementation and plain dumb, even corrupt, policy making.
New York Times - Harry Hurt III
Mr. Lerner provides more than a dozen rules of thumb for effective government intervention in the private sector.
New York Times - David Brooks
[A] useful book . . .
Local Economy - Glenn Athey
The book is instructive, well researched and contains some wise lessons from the past in terms of the government's role in promoting entrepreneurship and growth businesses. . . . [T]ake note, politicians and mandarins: this book can provide much-needed advice and perhaps a shortcut to developing more effective policies. . . . [R]ecommended reading to any local economic development practitioner who takes an interest in the big policy questions of today, and [it has] direct relevance to local economic development.
From the Publisher

Co-Winner of the 2010 Gold Medal Book Award in Entrepreneurship, Axiom Business

Winner of the 2009 PROSE Award in Business, Finance & Management, Association of American Publishers

"[S]uperb."--Edward L. Glaeser, New York Times' Economix blog

"Lots of governments would like to promote high-tech entrepreneurship and venture capital in their regions--but many don't know how to do it effectively. In his new book Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Josh Lerner . . . examines which types of policies to promote entrepreneurship and venture capital tend to work--and which don't. Lerner supports his carefully researched analysis with numerous examples chosen from around the globe."--MIT Sloan Management Review

"Can governments spark start-up activity and job creation by getting into the venture capital business? Or do they just waste taxpayer money whenever they try? Those are the two questions that animate the new book from Harvard Business prof Josh Lerner, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. . . . [W]hile the stories of failures are entertaining, what's most useful about Boulevard are the examples of governments that have gotten it right. . . . [A] really readable collection of data, anecdotes, and thoughtful arguments."--Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe blog "Innovation Economy"

"Today, calls for more innovation and entrepreneurship are more fashionable than ever, especially within government, where politicians and bureaucrats wastefully attempt to manufacture, via policy and subsidies, fresh batches of master agents and adventurers. But can government policy trigger entrepreneurship and subsequent growth? The title of a new book suggests not, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, by Harvard professor Josh Lerner. Much of Broken Dreams is a first-rate handbook for policy makers keen to avoid interventions that have proven track records as disasters. Lerner produces example after example of bad program design, bad implementation and plain dumb, even corrupt, policy making."--Terence Corcoran, National Post

"Mr. Lerner provides more than a dozen rules of thumb for effective government intervention in the private sector."--Harry Hurt III, New York Times

"[A] useful book . . ."--David Brooks, New York Times

"During economic turmoil, many look to the government to boost the economy by investing in entrepreneurship. But is that a good idea? Josh Lerner wrestles with that question in Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which considers the history of the public sector's involvement in entrepreneurship and venture capitalism--what's worked, from Silicon Valley to Singapore, and what's gone horribly awry. . . This book aims to steer policymakers in the right direction."--BizEd Magazine

"The book is instructive, well researched and contains some wise lessons from the past in terms of the government's role in promoting entrepreneurship and growth businesses. . . . [T]ake note, politicians and mandarins: this book can provide much-needed advice and perhaps a shortcut to developing more effective policies. . . . [R]ecommended reading to any local economic development practitioner who takes an interest in the big policy questions of today, and [it has] direct relevance to local economic development."--Glenn Athey, Local Economy

New York Times

[A] useful book . . .
— David Brooks
Boston Globe

Can governments spark start-up activity and job creation by getting into the venture capital business? Or do they just waste taxpayer money whenever they try? Those are the two questions that animate the new book from Harvard Business prof Josh Lerner, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. . . . [W]hile the stories of failures are entertaining, what's most useful about Boulevard are the examples of governments that have gotten it right. . . . [A] really readable collection of data, anecdotes, and thoughtful arguments.
— Scott Kirsner
National Post

Today, calls for more innovation and entrepreneurship are more fashionable than ever, especially within government, where politicians and bureaucrats wastefully attempt to manufacture, via policy and subsidies, fresh batches of master agents and adventurers. But can government policy trigger entrepreneurship and subsequent growth? The title of a new book suggests not, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, by Harvard professor Josh Lerner. Much of Broken Dreams is a first-rate handbook for policy makers keen to avoid interventions that have proven track records as disasters. Lerner produces example after example of bad program design, bad implementation and plain dumb, even corrupt, policy making.
— Terence Corcoran
BizEd Magazine

During economic turmoil, many look to the government to boost the economy by investing in entrepreneurship. But is that a good idea? Josh Lerner wrestles with that question in Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which considers the history of the public sector's involvement in entrepreneurship and venture capitalism--what's worked, from Silicon Valley to Singapore, and what's gone horribly awry. . . This book aims to steer policymakers in the right direction.
MIT Sloan Management Review

Lots of governments would like to promote high-tech entrepreneurship and venture capital in their regions--but many don't know how to do it effectively. In his new book Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Josh Lerner . . . examines which types of policies to promote entrepreneurship and venture capital tend to work--and which don't. Lerner supports his carefully researched analysis with numerous examples chosen from around the globe.
Local Economy

The book is instructive, well researched and contains some wise lessons from the past in terms of the government's role in promoting entrepreneurship and growth businesses. . . . [T]ake note, politicians and mandarins: this book can provide much-needed advice and perhaps a shortcut to developing more effective policies. . . . [R]ecommended reading to any local economic development practitioner who takes an interest in the big policy questions of today, and [it has] direct relevance to local economic development.
— Glenn Athey
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Product Details

Meet the Author


Josh Lerner is the Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking at Harvard Business School, with a joint appointment in finance and entrepreneurial management. He is the coauthor of "Innovation and Its Discontents" (Princeton), "The Venture Capital Cycle," and other books.
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Table of Contents


Preface and Acknowledgments vii
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction 1
PART ONE: CAN BUREAUCRATS HELP ENTREPRENEURS? 23
CHAPTER TWO: A Look Backwards 25
CHAPTER THREE: Why Should Policymakers Care? 43
CHAPTER FOUR: Things Get More Complicated 65
PART TWO: THREADING THE NEEDLE 87
CHAPTER FIVE: The Neglected Art of Setting the Table 89
CHAPTER SIX: How Governments Go Wrong: Bad Designs 111
CHAPTER SEVEN: How Governments Go Wrong: Bad Implementation 137
CHAPTER EIGHT: The Special Challenges of Sovereign Funds 162
CHAPTER NINE: Lessons and Pitfalls 181
Notes 193
Index 219
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