This thesis explores resource acquisition in science and technology-based entrepreneurial firms. Success and failure of these firms have been found to be intimately related to their resources, and conversely the lack thereof, as well as to the relations by which access to external resources is granted. Two areas of relevance to resource acquisition are of particular concern to this thesis: the role of personal relations and board ties.
The thesis includes four appended studies, each dealing with aspects of the areas of interest. Study I and II apply a case-methodology to investigate the role of personal relations for resource acquisition in Swedish university spin-offs and corporate spin-offs respectively. Study III is a theoretical paper that, building on theory and the findings in study I and II, seeks to address the role of personal relations in NTBFs more generally. Study IV, finally, builds on a large sample of firms started in the Swedish ICT-sector between 1997 and 2003, and investigates the role of boards and direct board ties for resource acquisition in these firms.
The findings of these studies support indications in the previous literature that personal relations are very important for NTBFs in their struggle to attract resources in the early phases. The findings also contribute to the literature by pointing to the variety of uses of these relations by themselves and as a generative mechanism for other means of resource acquisition. As such the findings also suggest potentially long lasting effects of these personal relations on, for example, network development, the efficiency of the firms operations, the adaptability of these firms, and hence also on the growth of these firms. It is argued that the benefits and constraints of personal relations are particularly important in new technology-based firms where high uncertainties, and possibly unavailable product and factor markets, may deprive these firms of the option to form alliances for long periods of time. Finally, the findings of this thesis also contribute to the literature on boards and interlocking directories by assessing the hitherto largely unattended role of such ties in new firms. The results indicate that boards and board ties to firms are important for the growth of NTBFs, and it is argued that appointing appropriate board members may be important both as means to access knowledge directly, as well as to communicate with and access resources from firms within the same industry.
From the point of view of theory, the results call for more research on personal relations to better understand the growth and failure of entrepreneurial firms, and in particular NTBFs. From a policy perspective it is important to note that much knowledge transfer occurs on individual rather than on organizational levels. The effectiveness of current, centralized mechanisms could thus be increased if they were to be restructured according to a regime that is based on coordination and facilitation of relations among actors. Finally, for NTBFs, the cost to build and maintain relations to acquire resources, especially research, must be contrasted with the risks of becoming too dependent on any one relation. Also, while NTBFs may need to bootstrap activities, it is important to bootstrap the right activities and not to cut on, for example, investments in good and skilled people.
List of articles in the thesis
I. Johansson, M., Jacob, M. & Hellström, T. (2005). ’The Strength of Strong Ties’ – University Spin-offs and the Significance of Historical Relations. Journal of Technology Transfer, 30(3): 271-286.
II. Johansson, M. (2007). Corporate Spin-offs and the Significance of Historical Relations. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 19(6): 789.
III. Johansson, M. (2007). Resource acquisition in new technology-based firms and the notion of embedded opportunities. Working Paper.
IV. Johansson, M., Dahlander, L. & Wallin, M. (2007). The Role of Boards and Board Connections for the Performance of Entrepreneurial Firms. RIDE working paper series.