Entrepreneurship as a social process

Published: 2021-09-10

Entrepreneurs depend on their social networks to grow their ventures. But we don't know much about how they actually go about forming new network contacts. Conducting a comparative study on entrepreneurial networking in Silicon Valley and Berlin, Anna Brattström, researcher and Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at LUSEM, did not only get some interesting insights into this process. It also gave her the Carolyn Dexter Award.

Anna Brattström studies the people side of innovation and entrepreneurship. How people come together, work together and stay together over time.

The study is co-authored with Katharina Scheidgen, a postdoctoral researcher at Leuphana University in Germany. It is an embedded, multiple case study that compares entrepreneurial networking across Silicon Valley and Berlin. Since both Silicon Valley and Berlin provide urban, international and dynamic environments for entrepreneurship, it is typically assumed that entrepreneurs would rely on similar practices, independent of in which of these two contexts they would operate.

The qualitative data from this study, however, shows that entrepreneurship is ultimately a social process and as such, shaped by social, context-bound norms. This leads entrepreneurs to mobilize their networks in very different ways in Silicon Valley compared to Berlin – with long term consequences for how their network evolves over time.

Entrepreneurship – a hyped field

Anna Brattström is interested in studying the people side of innovation and entrepreneurship. How people come together, work together and stay together over time. 

“We tend to focus a lot on the business side – but unless you get the people side to work, there is little chance of succeeding as an entrepreneur,” she says.  

To become an entrepreneur, or work with entrepreneurs, seems to be more popular than ever:

"There is a lot happening within the innovation and entrepreneurship field right now. And that is something our students and partner companies also perceive. Becoming an entrepreneur seems to be the coolest thing to do at the moment. Most innovation-oriented companies try in different ways to work more closely with entrepreneurs or to become more entrepreneurial. There is a bit of hype around this phenomenon and we see an entire industry growing up around supporting entrepreneurship.”

What is the most difficult thing about coaching young people to become entrepreneurs?

“Many of our students are eager to try out life as an entrepreneur, but it is important to acknowledge that there are huge risks involved. Many are called, but very few actually succeed… I think we have a responsibility to not get drawn into the hype, but to provide a more realistic understanding of what entrepreneurship implies," Anna says.

The impression of innovation

In near future, Anna will continue to study the current industry and hype around entrepreneurship. This summer, she also became runner-up for conference best paper at the International Product Development Conference (IPDMC) for a study on Innovation theatre. Innovation theatre are innovation activities that create an impression of being innovative or entrepreneurial, but that do not really lead to tangible outcomes.

“I conduct a lot of interviews around innovation theatre at the moment. It is interesting that so many people are able to come up with examples of innovation theatre in their organizations. And it is interesting to see how theatrical these examples are: a stage, carefully lit, where top managers outline an ambitious agenda; props, including popcorn machines and an office DJ, to generate the right entrepreneurial vibe; and an audience – organizational members – that are entertained and engaged. We try to understand this phenomenon of innovation theatre. What it is, as well as what type of both positive and negative consequences it might have.”

Learn more about the paper Lukewarm or hot? Comparing investor tie formation of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and Berlin

Read a longer version of this interview in our ”Colleague check” at the LUSEM Staff pages

What makes a successful entrepreneur?

According to Anna, this is vital in making a good entrepreneur:

  • Strong network
  • Knowledge about the specific business
  • Capital to invest
  • Persistence and flexibility

Learn more about Anna's research in the Research Portal

Carolyn Dexter Award

The award was presented during The Academy of Management Annual Meeting this summer, it is an All-Academy award given to the paper that best meets the objective of internationalizing the Academy of Management.

Learn more on aom.org