Entrepreneurs often depend on optimism in order to start, persevere and succeed in their business. But research also shows that too much entrepreneurial optimism can lead to poor new venture performance. In this paper, we argue that the concept of entrepreneurial optimism can be better understood in the context of a large-scale event in the macro-environment. Taking the recent 2008 financial crisis as our context, we consider the effects of individual entrepreneurs’ human capital characteristics on their optimism about the impact of the recession on their new ventures.