Karl H. Vesper


Karl Vesper went to college at Stanford University, CA, and received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1955. He applied, and got accepted, to three different grad schools: Stanford, Caltech and MIT (Massachusetts Institute for Technology), choose the latter, and in September that year Vesper moved to Boston. He did not, however, stay at MIT but dropped out and enrolled in the US Air Force as a mechanical engineer at the Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California (Interview with K. Vesper).

After completing his active military service, Vesper moved back to Boston but this time he had a career in Management consulting in mind (interview with K. Vesper), and therefore went to Harvard Business School. In 1960 he received a MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Harvard University,Cambridge, MA (Vesper vita).

Academic Career

From there on Karl Vespers academic career followed two different paths simultaneously. One path in engineering, which involved pioneering the use of Harvard Business School Style cases focused on technical engineering problems rather than business problems for teaching engineering, the other one in entrepreneurship, where his research focused on education and the creation of new business ventures (Interview with K. Vesper).

From 1960-61, Karl Vesper worked at Harvard Business School as a research assistant writing cases and teaching a Small Manufacturing Enterprises Course. After that he left Harvard for a time and worked as an assistant to the president of a high-performance electromotive products company in Anaheim, CA, and as business manager of a La Jolla oceanographic consulting company for which he helped raise venture capital from Silicon Valley (Vesper Vita).

In 1962, Karl Vesper returned to Harvard to work as research associate and teacher. From 1963-1969 he was Director of Case Development at Stanford University School of Engineering, and research associate and lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, concerned with a new program introducing case methods in engineering education.

In 1966, Karl Vesper received a Master of Science in Mechanical engineering from Stanford University, and three years later he took his PhD in engineering at Stanford. The same year, he became Professor of Management, Mechanical Engineering and Marine Studies at the University of Washington. A post he held until he retired in 2007.

Karl Vesper has also held several endowed professorships as a visitor at Baylor University(TX) in 1980, Babson College (MA), 1981, and the University of Calgary in 1987. In 1989 he was a visiting Professor at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland as a Fullbright Distinguished Lecturer. A few years later, in 2001, Karl Vesper held the position of visiting Professor in Bioengineering at the University ofCalifornia, San Diego, where he helped develop new graduate courses for the Jacobs School of Engineering. In 2007 he was visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Hawaii and three years later he held the position of Regents Endowed Chair visiting Professor at Texas Tech University (Vesper Vita).


During his academic career, Karl Vesper focused mainly on entrepreneurship education and research on the creation of new business ventures. He has published over 140 articles, book chapters and books (Vesper Vita).

In 1980 he published the book New Venture Strategies and in 1982 he co-edited the book Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship, with Calvin A. Kent and Donald L. Sexton. In the book they offered a summarized picture of the field of entrepreneurship research at the time (Kent, Sexton & Vesper 1982).

In 1988, Karl Vesper published an article in the Journal of Business Venturing. The article was titled “Entrepreneurial Academics – How Can We Tell When the Field is Getting Somewhere?” and in it Vesper concluded that the field of entrepreneurship research was on the rise, but the quality, quantity and direction of that research needed to be assessed. Vesper argues that both entrepreneurship research and education would have much to gain from being more experimental (Vesper 1988).

Vesper is known for his substantial contributions to the organizing of the field of entrepreneurship research. In 1974, at the Academy of Management (AOM) meeting, Karl Vesper organized a meeting for those interested in entrepreneurship; the meeting resulted in the forming of an interest group which later (1987) became the Entrepreneurship Division of AOM. Karl Vesper was also involved in one of the first academic conferences on entrepreneurship in the US, at the Center for Venture Management at Purdue University in 1970. A decade later, he and John Hornaday organized the first Babson Research Conference, today one of the leading conferences on entrepreneurship in the world (Landström 2010. p. 135).


Vesper, Karl H. (1980) New Venture Strategies. Englewood Cliffs:Prentice-Hall.

Kent, Calvin A., Sexton, Donald L. & Vesper, Karl H. (ed.) (1982) Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Vesper, Karl H. (1985) Entrepreneurship Education. Wellesley: Babson Center for Entrepreneurship Studies.

Vesper, Karl H. (1993) New Venture Mechanics. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Larson, Paul & Vesper, Karl H. (1993) The Washington Entrepreneur's Guide.Seattle: University Press.

Vesper, Karl H. (1994) New Venture Experience. Seattle: Vector Books.

Education (short)

  • PhD, Stanford University, 1969
  • MSME, Stanford University, 1966
  • MBA, Harvard University, 1960
  • BSME, Stanford University, 1955


Curriculum Vitae (CV): Vesper, Karl H. updated 2011.

Email interview with Karl H. Vesper, conducted by Sten K. Johanson Center for Entrepreneurship, Lund University.

Kent, Calvin A., Sexton, Donald L. & Vesper, Karl H. (ed.) (1982) Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Landström, Hans (2010) Pioneers in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research. New York: Springer-Verlag New York Inc.

Spears School of Business (2015) Karl Vesper Entrepreneurship Pioneer Award. [Online] Available from: http://entrepreneurship.okstate.edu/resources/awards/given-within-eee/karl-vesper/ [Accessed: April 14, 2015].

Vesper, Karl H. (1988) Entrepreneurial Academics – How can We Tell When the Field is Getting Somewhere?. Journal of Business Venturing. 3. P. 1-10.