22 October, 2018

Institutionalized Entrepreneurship: Flagship Pioneering

Harvard Business School Case no. 718-8484

This case examines an unusual model for innovation and entrepreneurship. Flagship Pioneering is a venture firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Unlike a traditional venture capital firm, Flagship does not take venture proposals from 3rd party entrepreneurs. Instead, the firm creates and funds all of its own ventures in-house using a staff of professionals. The firm’s founder, Noubar Afeyan, describes Flagship Pioneering as a “venture production company.” The company believes that through a systematic process it can “institutionalize” venture creation. This model stands in stark contrast to the more individualistic “entrepreneurial” approach that we often associate with venture creation. The case forces us to think through the trade-offs inherent in different models, and the contexts where Flagship’s model may be most appropriate. The case can be used to explore fundamental economic principles of the organization of innovation.