Founder Central Initiative

For founders and their startups, early decisions about people – cofounders, employees, investors, and board members – are vital to long-term success. Despite the significance of these decisions, founders often operate without the benefit of a roadmap to help guide what matters most and soonest: when specific decisions should be made, which options to consider, and what long-term consequences can be anticipated. It’s well-known that “people problems” represent the biggest reason (by far) for the high failure rate of high-potential startups. Less well-known are the ways in which founders can navigate or mitigate the negative impact of these problems, which can include founding team break-up, slowed startup growth, and founder replacement.

Founder Central’s mission is to create and disseminate knowledge about the most important early decisions faced by founders and the other people who help build startups. The goal: to build and share a roadmap that helps founders understand, through deep consideration of historical and current entrepreneurship, how to make more effective, more ethical decisions. We are committed to research and educational efforts that clarify how:

  • entrepreneurs learn from experience and generalize acquired knowledge to future ventures.
  • first-time entrepreneurs differ from serial entrepreneurs.
  • events in our social environment motivate social and economic decision-making.

Founder Central’s work is shared in several ways: through courses on campus at USC (Founder’s Dilemmas, Entrepreneurial Imagination), angel investors and founder bootcamps; and a national research symposium that brings together academics with shared interests.







Founder Central also works with postdoctoral fellows each year. 

Shuang Frost - Ph.D. (Social Anthropology), Harvard University:  Shuang Frost an anthropologist of emerging technologies, digital innovation, and political economy of China. She recently completed her Ph.D. in social anthropology at Harvard University, with a secondary field in STS (Science, Technology and Society). Employing a combination of ethnographic, computational, and visual methods, she has studied varied groups of actors from corporate managers of Uber and Didi, to taxi drivers in Hangzhou, to slum dwellers in Shanghai, to AI policymakers at global conferences. Through these projects, she seeks to understand how individuals make sense of economic and technological disruptions in contemporary societies, and how they navigate a shifting landscape of precarity and opportunities. She recently authored “Platforms as if People Mattered” (Economic Anthropology, 2020) and “Uber in China” (Harvard Business Review, 2016&2017). As a postdoctoral researcher at Greif Center of Entrepreneurial Studies, she is currently working on her book manuscript that looks at the technological and social transformations brought on by the advent of ride-hailing platforms in contemporary China.

Yidan Yin_FC PostDocYidan (Dani) YinYidan (Dani) Yin studies construal level and regulatory scope in innovation and communication. She seeks to understand how to reduce people's aversion to changes and new things, how to find common grounds and enhance persuasion, and how to enhance goal pursuit through mental representations of tasks at hand. She answers these questions by employing a variety set of methodologies, including archival data analysis, lab experiments, field surveys and qualitative interviews, as well as experience sampling method.