Olav Sorenson joined the UCLA Anderson faculty in 2020. His primary stream of research pertains to economic geography, focusing on how entrepreneurship influences the growth and competitiveness of regions within countries, and on why some regions appear more supportive to entrepreneurs than others. “I was in graduate school in the mid-1990s at Stanford, in Silicon Valley, and it seemed like everybody and their brother was getting involved in a startup,” Sorenson says. “That’s really what got me interested in entrepreneurship and interested in ‘Why Silicon Valley?’ What was different about Silicon Valley than other places?”
He has called attention to unexpected consequences of the fact that social capital plays an important role in entrepreneurial success. Largely in recognition of this research, Sorenson received the 2018 Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research.
His secondary streams of research have addressed the relationships between basic science and innovation and how organizations can better learn from their interactions with customers and from their manufacturing experience.
In total, he has delivered nearly 400 research presentations and has had more than 90 papers published on these subjects, in journals such as Science, the American Journal of Sociology, the Journal of Financial Economics, the Review of Economics and Statistics, Administrative Science Quarterly, Strategic Management Journal and Research Policy. Sorenson serves as a department editor for Management Science and as a deputy editor at the American Sociological Review. He has also served in editorial positions at more than a dozen other journals.
Sorenson’s Venture Capital Strategy course is a version of one he’s taught since 2005. “My goal with that course is to do something that’s a little different from the typical venture capital course, which is usually about valuation and contract terms,” says Sorenson. “This course comes more from the perspective of someone who would be an active venture capital or angel investor, and some of the types of strategic decisions that are involved with that.” He’ll also be teaching Entrepreneurship and Venture Initiation, an introductory entrepreneurship course.
In addition to his research and teaching responsibilities, Sorenson joins the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation as faculty research director. In that role, he plans to build on the curricular offerings of the Price Center and create a research arm dedicated to entrepreneurial studies. Sorenson also plans to mentor student entrepreneurial teams within the Anderson Venture Accelerator and those participating in the school’s Business Creation Option field study.
From 1999 to 2005, Sorenson taught strategy courses at UCLA Anderson. Prior to returning to Anderson, he held the Frederick Frank ’54 and Mary C. Tanner Professorship at the Yale School of Management and, before that, the Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair in Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto. He has also served on the faculties of London Business School and the University of Chicago, and has held visiting appointments at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, SDA Bocconi, Universidad Carlos III, Melbourne Business School, Singapore Management University, the National University of Singapore, BI Norwegian Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business and INSEAD.
Sorenson received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. He has also received an honorary doctorate from Aalborg University.
Ph.D. Sociology, 1997, Stanford University
M.A. Sociology, 1994, Stanford University
A.B. Social Studies, 1991, Harvard College