Abstract This paper explores innovation, experimentation, and creativity in the public domain and in the public interest. Researchers in various disciplines have studied public entrepreneurship, but there is little work in management and economics on the nature, incentives, constraints, and boundaries of entrepreneurship directed to public ends. We identify a framework for analyzing public entrepreneurship and its relationship to private entrepreneurial behavior. We submit that public and private entrepreneurship share essential features but differ critically regarding the definition and measurement of objectives, the nature of the selection environment, and the opportunities for rent seeking. We describe four levels of analysis for studying public entrepreneurship, provide examples, and suggest new research directions.