Testosterone and Entrepreneurship

Does testosterone make men more likely to start businesses? According to Roderick White, Stewart Thornhill and Elizabeth Hampson of the University of Western Ontario, the answer is “yes”.

They measured the testosterone levels of 31 male MBA students who had been involved in starting new businesses with 79 male MBA students who had never been involved in starting new businesses. They found that the students with entrepreneurial experience had higher testosterone levels. In addition, there was a relationship between testosterone levels and the odds of having entrepreneurial experience after they separated out the effects of the subjects’ age, race, undergraduate degree, risk taking propensity, and the time of day that the testosterone levels were measured.

Although the authors believe that testosterone levels make starting businesses more likely, it could be the other way around. Being an entrepreneur could increase testosterone levels. Whether higher levels of testosterone increase the odds of starting a business or having entrepreneurial experience increases testosterone levels, the relationship between testosterone and entrepreneurship is pretty interesting, don’t you think?

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About the Author: Scott Shane is A. Malachi Mixon III, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of seven books, the latest of which is Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By. He is also a member of the Northcoast Angel Fund in the Cleveland area and is always interested in hearing about great start-ups. Take the entrepreneurship quiz.

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Scott Shane Scott Shane is A. Malachi Mixon III, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of nine books, including Fool's Gold: The Truth Behind Angel Investing in America ; Illusions of Entrepreneurship: and The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By.

8 Reactions
  1. Scott,

    Yes, I DO think! Hormones and their influence on human behavior always fascinates me. I definitely have always made the connection between testosterone and having the edge in business. Although there seems to be a small selection of standout females, who possess their own chemical potion for high achievement, whatever that may be.

    Supporting your assertion that “Being an entrepreneur could increase testosterone levels,” I’m inclined to use my own experience here and say that being in business for myself has changed my outlook, my energy levels, my demeanor and my emotional reactions over time. If synapses are firing in my brain in a new way that releases certain chemicals and causes me to behave in a more effective and productive way, then I’m all for it.

    I want more of what you fellows have got. But not too much, of course.

  2. Scott, yes I do think! I’ve always been fascinated with hormones and their effect on behavior. Since I’ve become established as a business owner, I’ve noticed the ways my own behavior, emotional reactions, thought processes, energy levels, and resulting productivity has changed over the years. Is my brain producing more of some chemicals and less of others as a result of synapses firing? I don’t know, but I like the way this feels and the success it’s brought me.

    I want more of what you men have. But not TOO much.

  3. Dina,

    Thanks. I do want to clarify one thing about the last line. The study was only done on men. Other hormones could be associated with entrepreneurship in women. So I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion in your last line.

  4. Hmmm, that is very interesting. I’m also female like Dina but would like to hear what some of you male business owners think. I would think that being a successful male business owner would build self worth and may promote a rise in testosterone levels. I would be interested to know if male entrepreneurs are more physically active too.

  5. Oops, I thought I lost my post the first time, so I retyped it from scratch. Looks like the server caught my response after all. Great point about being more active as a result of increased self worth, Amanda.

  6. Hi Scott, interesting post, having worked with a number of successful entreprenuers in my time – I think they all do show similar characteristics and mannerisms but I don’t think this is purely down to testosterone – probably more drive and as Dina highlights self worth.

    I have worked with a lot of successful female clients who have the same desire and its usually this that makes them successful.