The relationship between origin and performance of innovative start-ups: the role of technological knowledge at founding

Abstract

According to the Knowledge Spillover Theory of Entrepreneurship (KSTE), the majority of innovative start-ups take advantage of the knowledge originated in incumbent firms or universities. However, little is known on how innovative start-ups’ heterogeneous originating contexts affect their performance differences at founding. To address this gap, we complement the KSTE with the resource-based view of the firm to hypothesize how the origin of innovative start-ups affects their initial technological knowledge and, in turn, performance at founding. We test the model using a sample of 338 innovative start-ups. Our results show that innovative start-ups that originated from university report a performance advantage since, right from their origin, their technological knowledge displays a broad scope and higher levels of newness.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    More specifically, the innovative character of start-ups is identified by at least one of the following criteria: (i) at least 15% of the company’s expenses can be attributed to R&D activities, (ii) at least 1/3 of the total workforce are doctoral students, PhDs, or researchers, or, alternatively, 2/3 of the total workforce have a Master’s degree, and/or (iii) the start-up is the holder, depositary, or licensee of a registered patent (industrial property), or the owner and author of a registered software.

  2. 2.

    These include, among others, the possibility to remunerate workers and consultants through stock options, and the possibility to raise equity through crowdfunding portals, robust tax incentives for investors, and access to public guarantees on bank loans.

  3. 3.

    By Bureau van Dijk.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Dr. Anita van Gils and Dr. Mara Brumana for their contribution to the design of the survey and to Raimondo Carletto for his contribution in exploring the dataset. We want to thank the insightful comments received by the participants to the Academy of Management Perspective Paper Development Workshop (Bergamo, 18 October 2018) and to the 2018 R&D Management Conference (Milan, 2–3 July 2018) where earlier versions of this paper were presented.

Funding

Support for this research was provided by the Italian Ministry of Education under the National Public Research Program (PRIN) through the project “Scientific research and competitiveness. Variety of organizations, support systems, and performance levels”; by the University of Bergamo under the “Excellence Initiative” program “Campus Entrepreneurship”; by UBI Banca; and by Jacobacci & Partners.

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Correspondence to Tommaso Minola.

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Minola, T., Hahn, D. & Cassia, L. The relationship between origin and performance of innovative start-ups: the role of technological knowledge at founding. Small Bus Econ (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-019-00189-y

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Keywords

  • Innovative start-ups
  • Technological knowledge
  • Performance
  • Knowledge spillover
  • Resource-based view

JEL classification

  • L25
  • O31
  • Q55