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Title: “Learning from Errors in Entrepreneurship”

This paper studies how entrepreneurs form new beliefs after making forecast errors. I use survey-based micro data that are representative of the population of French entrepreneurs, and I find that 21% of entrepreneurs make optimistic errors, while 36% make pessimistic errors, suggesting that a minority of entrepreneurs are initially well-calibrated. Although optimism and pessimism are persistent types over time, I show that the likelihood of making errors declines within individuals over time. After overestimating their development and hiring prospects, optimistic entrepreneurs revise their beliefs downward, whereas pessimistic entrepreneurs, who underestimate their prospects, revise upward. The evidence is consistent with entrepreneurs who learn from their past errors. In addition, the ability to correctly forecast sales and employment and revising beliefs are correlated with better performance and growth, and even more so for entrepreneurs who started with pessimistic beliefs.

Presenter: Camille Hebert (University of Toronto)

Coauthors:

Discussant: David Thesmar (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

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