Case Study

Study of entrepreneurs shows growth mindsets in founders lead to better company culture and more likelihood of reaching funding goals


It is widely acknowledged that the mindsets of leaders and managers play a significant role in shaping their work environments. Whether managers have a fixed mindset (where they believe talent and ability are innate and unchangeable), a growth mindset (where they believe every individual can grow and learn with the right supports and opportunities) or somewhere in between on the mindset continuum, this affects how they manage their employees and their organization’s culture. However, the role of an entrepreneur's mindset has been less explored. Entrepreneurs of new startup businesses face unique challenges with getting their business off the ground against headwinds such as raising capital, hiring and retaining talent, and boosting employee morale. How does the mindset of a startup’s founder, the ultimate culture creator of their organizations, influence the cultures they create?


The Equity Accelerator’s CEO Mary Murphy in collaboration with Kathleen Boyle Dalen and Wendy Torrance from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation conducted a study to find out. Their research investigated the mindset of 300 entrepreneurs focused on building fast-scaling organizations to examine how their mindsets influenced their companies’ cultures, and subsequently, the success of their ventures. The study examined the mindset of entrepreneurs across various measures, including beliefs about talent/ability, entrepreneurship, one's team, perceptions of venture capitalists' and investors' mindsets, and grit. The research sought to validate these measures against entrepreneur’s beliefs, behaviors, company culture, and overall company success.


The data not only affirms an entrepreneur's mindset can be effectively measured, but also demonstrates a clear link between their mindset and the culture of their organizations. Companies led by more growth-minded founders were more flexible and adaptable to change. These organizations exhibited more innovative, more ethical, and less interpersonally competitive company cultures. Founders’ trust in their teams translated to increased trust and commitment from their employees, resulting in lower turnover rates. Furthermore, growth-minded founders were more successful in securing a larger proportion of funding in their latest funding round, emphasizing the tangible impact of mindset on financial outcomes. The study found that mindset is also related to equity in the venture space: entrepreneurs' perceptions of venture capitalists' and investors' fixed mindsets were associated with higher burnout and increased stereotype threat among women entrepreneurs.

Growth Mindset beliefs in Entrepreneurs associated with

  • More positive beliefs about effort and ability
  • More ethical behavior
  • Greater organizational trust in their teams
  • More job satisfaction, less burnout
  • Greater success in realizing funding goals

Company Cultures led by Growth Minded Founders

  • More innovative, adaptive, and flexible
  • More ethical and less interpersonally competitive
  • Lower employee loss and turnover

The results are clear: founders with a growth mindset have a direct impact on their company's culture, fostering what we call Cultures of Growth. This refers to an organizational culture that embraces and enables continuous learning and development for all individuals within the organization. Such a workplace culture nurtures collaboration, innovation, creativity, risk-taking, resilience, and integrity, promoting ethical behavior throughout the organization. As demonstrated by this study, these attributes also contribute to the positive impact on the company's overall financial performance as well. 

When we think about the current conditions - talent conditions, organizational conditions - that we’re working in right now and beyond, having a Culture of Growth is highly relevant. If I’m an entrepreneur building a company, I’m worried about retaining and growing my talent, and this is something we need; this is a competitive advantage.
Kathleen Boyle Dalen

Kathleen Boyle Dalen

Former Chief Talent, Integration, and Culture Officer at The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and Current Founder & Principal of KBD Consulting, LLC

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