Innovation and the Financial Guillotine
Our paper demonstrates that while failure tolerance by investors may encourage potential entrepreneurs to innovate, financiers with investment strategies that tolerate early failure endogenously choose to fund less radical innovations. Failure tolerance as an equilibrium price that increases in the level of experimentation. More experimental projects that don't generate enough to pay the price cannot be started. In equilibrium all competing financiers may choose to offer failure tolerant contracts to attract entrepreneurs, leaving no capital to fund the most radical, experimental projects. The tradeoff between failure tolerance and a sharp guillotine helps explain when and where radical innovation occurs.
We thank Gustavo Manso, Josh Lerner, Thomas Hellmann, Michael Ewens, Bill Kerr, Serguey Braguinsky, Antoinette Schoar, Bob Gibbons and Marcus Opp as well as seminar participants at CMU and MIT for fruitful discussion and comments. All errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.