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Hunting for Heffalumps

David Burnett
Founder, Technopreneurial.com
September 2000

The Entrepreneurial
The History of
Entrepreneurship Theory
& Economic Development
The Supply of
Two Case
Calling for
"The entrepreneurial Heffalump is a variegated sort of animal, which appears in different habitats and in different forms. It also appears to have undergone some evolutionary changes or mutations since the first reports of its existence were made public by Heffalump hunters in the past. So it is not surprising that there is disagreement about the nature of the beast" (Wilken, 1979).

In 1971 economist Peter Kilby compared those who study entrepreneurship to the characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh children's stories. In one story, the characters go hunting for the mysterious creature the Heffalump. Even though they all claim to know about the Heffalump, none of the characters have ever captured one, and "they disagree on his particularities" (Kilby, 1971). As the above quote by Wilken suggests, entrepreneurs are the Heffalumps of economics. Almost all economists are familiar with entrepreneurs and have some understanding about the important role that they play in promoting economic growth and development (Wilken, 1979). Nonetheless, there is little agreement over the genuine characteristics of entrepreneurs, and economists have yet to develop a complete understanding of their behavior. Thus, like the Heffalump, the entrepreneur remains a well-known but largely mysterious creature.

Due to its elusive nature, entrepreneurship is often overlooked in development economics. Nonetheless, entrepreneurship is a necessary ingredient for stimulating growth. To achieve successful economic development, a country must experience both economic growth and "fundamental changes in the structure of [its] economy" (Gillis, 1996). Despite their typically unappreciated role, entrepreneurs orchestrate these transformations and create new channels for economic activity and employment. Thus, all countries that wish to pursue continued development must encourage entrepreneurship.

 The History of Entrepreneurship Theory

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