This paper presents an empirical analysis of the factors which promote entrepreneurial activity across a number of transition, developing and developed countries. It produces results which highlight the importance of institutions in promoting entrepreneurial activity. This work is part of an on-going research project on the relationship between the legal system and factors which influence economic development. In particular, it has been shown that legal rules protecting creditors and investors influence the size of financial markets which in turn influence economic development. Our paper thus extends the analysis of the impact of institutions beyond that previously established to demonstrate its influence on another driver of economic development. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.