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Dong Liu, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior
Dong Liu, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior

Entrepreneur’s Excitement and Enthusiasm - Can Joy Buy you Money?

When it comes to pitching business ideas to potential investors, an entrepreneur’s excitement and enthusiasm can make all of the difference between dreams taking shape or falling flat.

However, it’s not just the intensity of enthusiasm that’s important, according to a recent study by Scheller College’s Dong Liu along with Lin Jiang (University of South Florida) and Dezhi Yin (University of South Florida). How long an entrepreneur displays the highest level of excitement during a pitch also plays a major role in predicting success in receiving funding. The findings - basically, too much enthusiasm can be a bad thing.

“The findings suggest that investors may interpret prolonged periods of high enthusiasm as over-optimistic,” said Dong Liu, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. “Over-optimistic entrepreneurs are thought to make irrational decisions and overestimate their products’ profitability.”

In the study, which was published April 8 in the Academy of Management Journal, the researchers described using artificial intelligence software to analyze video pitches for 1,460 business funding proposals for products posted on the crowd funding website Kickstarter.

The software used facial expression recognition and big data analytics to measure the intensity of enthusiasm in more than 8 million frames of video, then recorded how long the presenters stayed at their maximum level of excitement, which the researchers described as the point of “peak joy.”

They found that, generally speaking, the higher the peak level of enthusiasm, the more likely the entrepreneur was to receive funding, after controlling for differences in the products and business ideas. But there was a bell curve in the results, where the likelihood of funding tended to fall as “peak joy” levels went on for too long.

“Although a higher level of peak joy displayed by entrepreneurs during their pitches leads to better funding performance over time, prolonged display of peak joy seemed to undermine funding performance,” Liu said. “Another possible interpretation is that investors may believe the entrepreneur is acting and the pitch is manipulative. Maybe they feel the entrepreneur is using his or her excitement to manipulate the investors’ perceptions in hopes of increasing the odds of getting funding.”

Read more details about this study

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