The research, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and authored by researchers from MIT, Harvard and the Wharton School, reveals that a good idea and an experienced presenter are not always enough to win the financial backing required for a successful start-up.
“Our research (…) documents other critical criteria that investors use to make these decisions: the gender and physical attractiveness of the entrepreneurs themselves,” it said.
The study examined several business pitches, both at real pitch competitions in the United States and in a controlled experiment setting, in which the content of the pitches was the same but the presenters were different.
It found investors “prefer pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches made by female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitch is the same.”
It added that “attractive males were particularly persuasive, whereas physical attractiveness did not matter among female entrepreneurs.”
The authors said the study was significant because of the important role that entrepreneurship plays in U.S. economic growth and prosperity and because the survival of a start-up depends heavily on finding investors.