Robert Edgell, SUNY Polytechnic Institute – Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are flashy, but don’t forget about reliable small business owners.

Robert Edgell, associate professor of technology management at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, delves into how both business ventures can have a beneficial impact on a community.

Dr. Edgell is currently an Associate Professor of Technology Management, Co-Director of the Joint Center for Creativity, Design, and Venturing, and had volunteered for one year to be the Interim Dean of the College of Business Management at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Swiss Business School in Zurich and has delivered research papers and lectures at Stanford University’s Law School, the University of California San Francisco’s School of Dentistry, the California College of the Arts, and the University of St. Gallen. Previously, he was an Assistant Professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business where he was named Outstanding Faculty. Also, he has taught at San Francisco State University’s College of Business.

Dr. Edgell’s scholarship agenda expands upon his deep commitment to creativity, design, innovation, governance, and diversity. He is currently researching institutional change micro-processes, design culture, collective ideation, and entrepreneurial capacity development. He has collaborated with scholars from Temple University, Stanford University, and other institutions. He has published several scholarly research articles and presented multiple conference papers. Seven research projects have been featured on National Public Radio’s Academic Minute. Recently he was a co-PI recipient of a prestigious $100,000 National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities Connections grant for Reimagining Entrepreneurship: An Integrated Pathway for Creative and Ethical Venturing. In addition, NYSTEC recently donated $25,000 for supporting his entrepreneurial Initiatives and related research at the College of Business Management. Shortly after arriving at SUNY Poly, he launched a community-based experiential learning, research, and service program that brings InnovationChallenge New York (ICNY) events to the Upstate New York region. Since then, he has organized a total of five ICNY iterations with varied topics, students, and locations. In October of 2017, he presented his co-authored empirical quantitative research paper, Reimagining entrepreneurship: Design culture exposure as a positive mediator for entrepreneurial capacity, at the International Atlantic Economics Society’s Montreal Conference (paper currently under peer review for publication). He was awarded “Campus Connector” designation by Upstate Venture Ecosystems Awards in 2016.

Dr. Edgell received his PhD in international multicultural management (magna cum laude) from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. He holds an MBA from Columbia University Business School in the City of New York and a five-year Bachelor of Architecture from Kent State University, College of Architecture and Environmental Design. Through Columbia’s Chazen Institute of International Business, he studied at Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management in The Netherlands. He is a registered Architect and has studied at Harvard University, Graduate School of Design.

Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs


Are there meaningful distinctions between small business owners and entrepreneurs?

Small business owners have strong operational know-how, managerial abilities, and local community ties. Their firms usually deploy well-known business models and processes to deliver low novelty, high quality products and services that fulfil localized niche demand. They typically are low risk and bank fundable since they have relatively low startup and operating costs. These firms tend to recirculate existing local capital in their home communities through providing incremental value.

In contrast, entrepreneurs are change agents since they are unsatisfied with the current market equilibrium. They are visionary, risk-tolerant, have access to emergent knowledge, have ties to capital networks, and are skilled at adaptively motivating others. They tend to initiate ventures which through innovative business models and processes produce highly creative products and services mostly for scalable export. These risky ventures usually have high startup and operating costs and, thus, require funding from sources such as venture capitalists and capital markets. However when successful, they aggregate economic wealth in home communities through exchange with consumers in a variety of distant lands.

Localities seeking to strategically transform their fortunes might want to better understand and support entrepreneurs as a compliment to small business owners.