Remembering Jeff Timmons, Top Entrepreneurial Thinker
BY Mike Hofman
Jeff Timmons, a trailblazing professor of entrepreneurship and a longtime member of the faculty at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, died on April 8 at age 66. The school, which is considered a preeminent center of the study of entrepreneurship, counted Timmons among its best-known and most influential professors. He was the author of several major works about entrepreneurship including The Entrepreneurial Mind and Venture Capital at the Crossroads, co-authored with William Bygrave.
Timmons's seminal achievement was the book New Venture Creation, a work that managed to be both epic in scale and exceedingly practical. It was filled, for example, with advice on drafting legal contracts and how to predict and limit disputes among co-owners in a family business.
In a 1999 article in Inc., Tom Richman named it one of the eight books every entrepreneur should read before starting a business. "[L]ots of people have already done what you propose to do—that is, start a company—and Timmons has collected many of their experiences here," Richman explained. "Why should you stagger through the entrepreneurial process blind when others have already explored and mapped it, and why not at least be aware of what they've learned?"
Among his other accomplishments, Timmons is credited with writing one of the first academic theses to focus on contemporary entrepreneurship, and he started what is believed to be the first collegiate business plan competition in the United States, in 1984. Timmons, who arrived at Babson in 1982, also taught for a time at Harvard Business School. He was also a charter board member of the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
In a note announcing Timmons's death, Babson provost Patricia Greene (herself one of the nation's leading experts on entrepreneurship), noted that on the day before he died, "Professor Timmons spent the entire day at Babson with a small team discussing the history and future of entrepreneurship. He was brilliant in the way that he shared his insights, knowledge, and enthusiasm. His passion, as always, was striking."
"Professor Timmons' impact and influence on Babson and the global entrepreneurial community is unparalleled," Greene concluded, "and his passing is a huge loss."
Timmons is survived by his wife Sara, and two daughters.
Were you a student of Timmons's at Babson or Harvard? Did you work with him through one of the numerous start-ups he nurtured and advised? If so, please feel free to post your memories of him here.
Last updated: Apr 14, 2008
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman