Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street
Dr. Thomas Hellmann is the Academic Director of the Oxford Saïd Entrepreneurship Centre and the Academic Advisor to the Oxford Foundry.
Thomas holds a BA from the London School of Economics and a PhD from Stanford University, where he wrote his thesis under Prof. Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel in Economics, 2001). He previously was faculty at the Graduate School of Business (Stanford), and at the Sauder School of Business (University of British Columbia). Thomas also held visiting positions at Harvard Business School, Wharton, the Hoover Institution, INSEAD, and the University of New South Wales. He has taught numerous undergraduate, MBA, doctoral, and executive courses in the areas of entrepreneurship, finance and strategic management.
Thomas's research focuses on entrepreneurial finance, entrepreneurship, innovation, and public policy. His academic writings have been published in many leading economics, finance, and management journals, including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Finance, and Management Science. He has been a consultant to a variety of clients, including the World Economic Forum, Barclays Bank, and the Government of British Columbia.
Thomas wrote numerous case studies on entrepreneurial companies and venture financing, and he is currently writing a textbook on the subject. He is the founder of the NBER Entrepreneurship Research Boot Camp, and the Oxford Entrepreneurship Policy Roundtable.
Read Thomas's CV.
Thomas’s research spans entrepreneurial finance, corporate finance, economic theory, empirical data analysis, innovation and strategic management.
The unifying theme is a quest to gain deeper understanding of the entrepreneurial process, thereby generating new insights that are both rigorous and relevant. Thomas's academic writings have been published in a variety of leading finance, economics, and management journals, including the Journal of Finance, the American Economic Review, and Management Science.
Thomas’ main areas of expertise are:
- Entrepreneurial finance
- Entrepreneurial firm formation
- Government policy towards entrepreneurship
Some of his recent work assesses the current state of the UK financing ecosystem for scale-up companies. He was one of the principal authors of a report convened by Barclays titled Scale-up UK: Growing Businesses, Growing our Economy. His research often looks at the international dimensions of venture investing, such as his work on trust among nations and venture capital, found here. Thomas has been working with Prof. Noam Wasserman researching the process of how founder teams allocate their founder equity, the insights of which are summarized in 'The very first mistake most startup founders make'.
See Thomas's research.
Thomas is deeply engaged in the interface between academia and practice.
Thomas has collaborated with a variety of entrepreneurs and investors on writing business case studies that have been published at Harvard, Stanford and elsewhere. They cover a wide variety of topics and companies, ranging from the early days of a university spin-out, to financing by angels and venture capitalists, all the way to how established companies such as Apple Computers or Symantec strategically invest in start-ups.
Going all the way back to a student internship at the World Bank, Thomas has been actively engaged in public policy. He is the founding organiser of the Oxford Entrepreneurship Policy Roundtable, which convenes every year a small group of high-level policy makers, practitioners, and academics who discuss a cutting-edge entrepreneurship policy issue, such as the scaling of start-up companies, the regulation of crowdfunding, or the role of universities in fostering entrepreneurship.
Thomas is a regular speaker at policy conferences. In 2010, he wrote a report about the role of government in venture capital for the World Economic Forum. In British Columbia he led the evaluation of the provincial equity capital programme that provides tax credits to venture capitalists and angel investors. Thomas is also frequently asked by the press to comment on a wide variety of entrepreneurship-related topics.
On the academic side, Thomas has taken on a variety of leadership roles. He demonstrated his commitment to multiple academic audiences by serving on the editorial boards of highly regarded journals in finance (Journal of Financial Intermediation), economics (Journal of Economics and Management Strategy), strategic management (Management Science), as well as a practitioner-oriented journal (Journal of Private Equity). He is a member of numerous programme committees (EFA, ISB, WFA) and a regular referee for all major finance and economics journals. Thomas has received major research grants from SSHRC (Canada) and NSF (US), and he has given a large number of seminars all over the world.
Thomas has extensive teaching expertise.
Having taught entrepreneurship for over two decades, Thomas believes that teaching entrepreneurship is the best thing on earth, and that learning about entrepreneurship is one of the greatest challenge any student could wish for. What makes entrepreneurship uniquely challenging is that it requires an integration of a large variety of skills (business, technical, organisational, interpersonal etc.), as well as the blending of logical reason with intuition and pattern recognition. Most certainly it requires an entrepreneurial mind-set that is both focused and flexible at the same time. And just before anyone gets too excited, it also requires a lot of hard work.
Thomas’ teaching philosophy is to provide a seamless integration of academic conceptual foundations and applied experiences. The purpose of taking an entrepreneurship course is not to make progress on a specific business plan, but rather to leverage the classroom experience as a learning platform for discovering and refining one’s own entrepreneurial skills. And once you are engaged with a specific business venture, you never stop learning and experimenting with an open mind set.
At Saïd Business School, Thomas is leading the teaching team for the ‘Entrepreneurship Project’, an experiential project where teams of MBA students develop their own business proposal, test it through extensive market research, and present it in front of a panel of experienced investors and entrepreneurs. In addition, he is teaching an elective on Entrepreneurial Finance, a topic that he is deeply passionate about. For undergraduates, Thomas introduced a new option called 'Entrepreneurship and Innovation' that is joint between the 'management' and 'engineering' students. Thomas is also involved in a variety of executive programmes.
Thomas strongly believes in bringing entrepreneurship teaching to students across the entire university. Under his leadership, the ‘Entrepreneurship Project’ opened up to allow other Oxford students to collaborate with the MBAs. With the Entrepreneurship Centre, he also launched VIEW (Venture Idea Exploration Workshop), a pre-accelerator programme for students from across the University of Oxford wanting to explore their entrepreneurial ideas. Thomas continues to be eager to contribute to the University’s broader efforts of promoting entrepreneurial thinking through a variety of cross-disciplinary initiatives.
The challenge of teaching entrepreneurship is that it requires both a broad understanding of the many relevant academic foundations, as well as practical knowledge of the entrepreneurial process. No individual can possibly cover the entire spectrum, which is why Thomas believes in team teaching, and he likes to work with other academics, as well as practitioners from all walks of life.
At UBC, Thomas pioneered a technology entrepreneurship class that requires MBA students to work on a business idea with students from other parts of the university. He also designed a variety of foundational (undergraduate and graduate) courses in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial finance. He is proud to have won the Sauder 'Talking Stick Award' which is awarded for significant pedagogical innovations.