My general research interests are entrepreneurship theory and innovation management. Specifically, I spend much of my time trying to reconceptualize entrepreneurship as a form of artifact-centered design, partly by running the combined research and utilization projects Born Global and Scale Global with funding primarily from Vinnova. As very practical startup accelerator programs, Born Global and Scale Global have helped more than 100 founding teams and their startups, but as sites for research they have also been instrumental in my research. This includes my former PhD student Yashar Mansoori's dissertation on the topic of Entrepreneurial Methods as Vehicles of Entrepreneurial Action. I am also interested in academic entrepreneurship, and especially how appreciating the 'epistemic dimension' of professional identity can help us understand the behaviors and sensemaking of academic entrepreneurs as well as other knowledge workers who combine multiple professional roles. These questions were central to my former PhD student Marouane Bousfiha's dissertation The Lived Experience of Academic Entrepreneurship: The interplay between practice, identity, and context. Combining these two interests, I also try to help research groups design business models based on their research findings as part of EuroLab-4-HPC, an EU funded research center of excellence in High Performance Computing Systems. I do similar work in the area of customized and low-energy computing in TETRAMAX.
In this chapter we set out to complement the entrepreneurship as practice perspective by proposing a conceptualization of its central artifacts, such as business models, pitches, and prototypes. Having defined as entrepreneurial those artifacts that serve to instantiate an abstract opportunity in a way that supports its further development, we discuss entrepreneurial artifacts in terms of three broad categories: abstract, material, and narrative. Thereafter we point to some themes for further development before concluding with implications for the practice (and practice theory) of entrepreneurship.
We combine Herbert Simon's view of design with the common distinction between reality as discovered or created to develop experimentation and transformation as ideal types of entrepreneurial design. Building on the design tradition's view of artifacts, we describe how opportunities-as-artifacts iteratively develop at the interface between organized individuals and their environments, where more or less concrete instantiations are used to drive the process forward. By conceptualizing entrepreneurship as artifact-centered design, we provide an alternative to accounts inspired by economic theory, which have proven conceptually problematic and of limited practical use. We conclude by discussing how uncertainty can be defined and managed, the value of design as a conceptual anchor for entrepreneurship studies, opportunities for future research, and how entrepreneurship seen as design naturally bridges theory and practice.
The purpose of this special issue is to outline a distinct third body of knowledge in the form of pragmatically oriented entrepreneurial design principles, to discuss whether it deserves a position on par with theory and practice, and to explore its interfaces with both the causal mechanisms of entrepreneurship theory and the complex realities of entrepreneurial practice (c.f. Romme and Endenburg, 2006; Van Burg et al., 2008). By design principles we mean context specific and pragmatic heuristics that prescribe actions often with the following syntax: ’to achieve X in situation Y, something like Z will help’ (Van Aken, 2004: 227). By highlighting design as a valuable third body of knowledge, in this virtual special issue we depart from the commonly proposed way to bridge the rigor-relevance gap that simply encourages closer collaboration and more intimate involvement of practitioners in the research process (e.g. Shapiro et al., 2007; Starkey and Madan, 2001). While such closeness may very well be valuable, we submit that interlocking theory and practice may not be the best option to produce a stable system. Instead, we follow Simon (1996) who argued for a science of design whose purpose is not to produce descriptive theories of the world as it is, but rather to develop pragmatic tools "in the service of action" (Romme, 2003, p. 562).
We conclude by suggesting that entrepreneurship scholars pay attention to Ramoglou and Tsang’s critique of naïve positivism and their emphasis on mechanisms and causal explanations. However, we see no value in using critical realism as a meta-theoretical crutch to save the realness and independence of entrepreneurial opportunities, and more generally to conceive of entrepreneurial processes and outcomes as caused by complexly interacting and empirically unobservable entities and mechanisms. Instead, we urge scholars to consider explanations that focus on empirically tractable social mechanisms that connect social action and interaction with relevant outcomes in ways that take into account the open-endedness, uncertainty, and transformative character of entrepreneurship.
Why do entrant firms sometimes gain the upper hand under conditions of discontinuous technological change? Previous research on this topic has either looked at the role of established competencies and/or firm incentives to invest in a new technology. In this paper we explore an alternative explanation. Drawing on evidence from the ongoing transition from CCTV to digital, IP based video surveillance, we argue that entrant firms may be more prone to act entrepreneurially, i.e. more inclined to proactively create or transform markets and build ecosystems. As new technologies frequently require altered behavior among customers and stakeholders, this capability is sometimes critical in order to succeed in a technological transition. Our contribution therefore lies in pointing out that not only may incentives to allocate R&D resources differ among entrants and incumbents, firms might also have different incentives to engage in entrepreneurial activities of creating or transforming markets.
This paper discusses the influence of Israel Kirzner on the field of entrepreneurship research. We review Kirzner’s work and argue that it contains two distinct approaches to entrepreneurship, termed Kirzner Mark I and Kirzner Mark II. Mark I with its focus on alertness and opportunity discovery has exerted a strong influence on entrepreneurship research in the last decade, and helped catapult the field forward. We propose that Mark II, with its emphasis on time, uncertainty and creative action in pursuit of imagined opportunities, complements the discovery view and can provide an alternative conceptual grounding for the decade to come.
In Chapter 3, entitled "Pragmatic entrepreneurs and institutionalized scholars? On the path-dependent nature of entrepreneurship scholarship", Henrik Berglund and Karl Wennberg start with the question: The essence of entrepreneurship is being different. If this is the case, why does so much of entrepreneurship research seem to be so very similar? They argue that the increased maturation and institutionalization of entrepreneurship as a scholarly field have led to greater influence from established research fields such as strategic management and organization theory, and as a consequence, an increased 'taking-for-grantedness' of research questions, unit of analysis and research designs. Thus, much entrepreneurship research becomes fairly narrow in focus and echoes mainstream disciplines. Taking inspiration from real-world entrepreneurs and the philosophical tradition of pragmatism, the authors provide some suggestions for entrepreneurship research:
* Entrepreneurship scholars need to pay more attention to the fundamental nature of entrepreneurship and practicing entrepreneurs.
* Entrepreneurs are pragmatic individuals and in the same way as real-world entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship scholars need to adopt a 'down to earth', actionable and pluralistic view of entrepreneurship.
* This pragmatic view of entrepreneurship calls for epistemological inspiration from pragmatic philosophy, theoretical inspiration from disciplines other than strategic management and organization theory, as well as methodological inspiration from a wide range of traditions.
This paper describes phenomenological approaches to studying entrepreneurs and their behaviours with the goal of providing a useful complement to the cognitive and discursive approaches that are common in the field today. These two approaches typically seek coherent explanations of entrepreneurial behaviours by grounding them in underlying cognitions or extra-individual discourses. Phenomenology on the other hand seeks to capture the richness of individuals’ lived experiences. While some degree of scientific reduction is inevitable in all empirical research, such reduction is also accompanied by the risk of ignoring essential insights. This paper argues that the study of entrepreneurship is especially vulnerable to misleading conclusions stemming from premature abstraction and analysis.
The literature on disruptive innovation has convincingly explained why many established firms encounter problems under conditions of discontinuous change. Incumbents fail to invest in new technologies that are not demanded by their existing customers. This argument is grounded in resource dependency theory and the associated assumption that existing customers control a firm’s internal resource allocation processes. While the problem of disruptive innovation has been convincingly explained, there is still a need for managerial solutions. We argue that a key reason why such solutions are lacking can be found in the asymmetric assumptions made in the original theory of disruptive innovation. Specifically, we identify two related forms of asymmetry. First, the focal (incumbent) firm is treated as a collection of heterogeneous actors with different preferences, incentives and competencies, whereas firms in the surrounding environment are treated as if they contained no such heterogeneity. Second, the theory of disruptive innovation describes incumbents as controlled by their environment, but has failed to recognize that the environment can also be influenced. In this paper we argue that a more symmetric theory of disruptive innovation — i.e. one that treats all similar entities in the same way — opens up for a range of interesting managerial solutions.
There is an emerging consensus that business models are systemic and transcend firm boundaries. Yet, existing research on business model innovation challenges focus almost exclusively on intra-firm factors such as capabilities, cognition and leadership. We explore challenges related to business model innovation by instead drawing on an open systems perspective on organizations and develop a set of propositions. In particular, we argue that the systemic and boundary-spanning nature of business models imply that firms are forced to act under conditions of interdependence and restricted freedom, since they do not have executive control over their surrounding network. Consequently, we propose that suitable managerial solutions include the development of shared knowledge, appropriability regimes based on trust, network stability and the alignment of heterogeneous interests.
While venture capital has become a global phenomenon, our knowledge about regional differences in VC behavior is quite poor. Most cross-regional comparisons have been quantitative replications of US based studies, which has made it difficult to discern qualitative differences. To help remedy this situation, we conducted semi-structured open interviews with altogether twelve early stage VCs in California and Scandinavia. The results, which are presented in some detail, reveal substantial differences in VC activities and priorities during deal flow generation, investment, post investment involvement, and exit. Taking a cue from these specific findings, we conclude by suggesting that VCs can be conceived of as fulfilling three ideal typical roles as Investors, Coaches and Partners. Since they imply quite different modes of engaging with portfolio companies, it is also suggested that these roles — while based on a limited sample — may be useful for discriminating between VCs also in other settings.
Question 1) As a highly influential entrepreneurship scholar with more than 25 years of experience, you have helped launch large-scale empirical research programmes (e.g. PSED), pioneered new theoretical perspectives (e.g. the focus on behaviors rather than character traits), and also -- perhaps as a consequence of this -- actively engaged in debates and discussions of a more paradigmatic nature. In light of this wide-ranging experience, what is your own personal view of the history and current state of entrepreneurship as a field of research?
Question 2) Let's focus more narrowly on how to understand and study entrepreneurial action or behavior. As I see it, much of this research can be roughly organized under three headings that reflect broad research programmes in entrepreneurship studies, and also correspond to generic views of human action, viz.: the empiricism of behavioral approaches, the rationalism of cognitive approaches, and the interpretivism of discursive approaches (Berglund 2005). Again accord- ing to my interpretation, behavioral approaches tend to downplay the subjective meanings that actions have to individuals in favor of objective examinations of specific behaviors. Cognitive approaches seek to address intentionality and meaning by showing how different thought styles and knowledge structures, e.g. heuristics and biases, cause different behaviors. Discursive approaches explicitly probe the subjective meanings actions have to individuals by investigating how entrepreneurial actions and decisions are affected by more or less public narratives and discourses. ...
In Chapter 8, Saras Sarasvathy and Henrik Berglund provide a detailed review of the theory related to entrepreneurial decision making. They argue that research into entrepreneurial decision making has accomplished only a thin slice of what is possible, because, to date, little effort has been made to relate findings from entrepreneurship research back to scholarship in decision making. Sarasvathy and Berglund conclude that it is time to move from modeling entrepreneurial activity solely as 'decision' occurring within the individual-opportunity nexus to include the 'design' of opportunities, in which opportunities are not exogenous to the entrepreneurial process, but can also be its outcome or residual.
Yar Hamidi, D., Wennberg, K. and Berglund, H. (2008). Creativity in Entrepreneurship Education, Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development (Special Issue on Entrepreneurship Education). 15(2): 304-320.
The purpose of this paper is to use social cognitive theory to investigate entrepreneurial
intent among participants in graduate entrepreneurship programs. Specifically, the authors test
whether students' creative potential is related to their intention to engage in entrepreneurship
The notion of opportunities is fast becoming a central theme in the field of entrepreneurship research. As part of this growing interest, the ontological status of opportunities has been scrutinized with researchers tending to view them as either objectively existing or socially created. In the present treatment, this ontological debate is partly avoided in favor of a phenomenological examination of Mobile Internet entrepreneurs, which naturally bridges these distinctions. The empirical findings are used to propose a framework in which opportunities are seen as both existing and created in the evolving set of perceptions and projections, sometimes fixed and sometimes mutable, that provide the cognitive and practical drivers needed to guide entrepreneurial action.
Risk is central to innovation but in order to be theoretically interesting and of practical use the relation between risk and innovation needs to be investigated in more specific situations. This paper explores the risk conceptions of innovators in two large corporations and identifies three themes that illuminate the relationship between risk and innovation in the corporate setting. The first relates risk to the issues of boundaries and control over parts of the innovation process, the second how risk is primarily related to innovation as process and not as output, and the third on how a flexible view of business models can be used to manage risk in corporate innovation.
This paper develops a model of entrepreneurial learning in order to explain how VCs
support the process of entrepreneurial learning and thereby add value to their ventures.
We draw on two generic approaches to learning, termed the hypothesis-testing mode and
the hermeneutic mode, which turn out to be closely interrelated in such learning
processes. The resulting model comprises four categories, which focus on what
entrepreneurs learn and how it is learnt: experimentation, evaluation, unreflective action
and unverified assumptions. We then use these analytical categories to illustrate how VCs
apply their different forms of expertise to increase a venture's value once an investment
has been made.
Berglund in Chapter 3, "Researching entrepreneurship as lived experience",
presents aspects of philosophical phenomenology that are relevant to entrepreneurship and exemplifies how phenomenology can be used to capture and
communicate the meanings of different entrepreneurial experiences, allowing
for a more detailed understanding of how theoretical concepts and
empirical events are understood and translated into action by entrepreneurs.
(from the book editors' introduction)
This chapter takes a closer look at how social networks can affect the
early development of new ventures. The dynamic role of social networks is
discussed and exemplified by two longitudinal cases that illustrate the
radically different ways in which social networks can influence venture
development. These differences relate to social or individual ownership of
the innovation process, to risks or opportunities as the focus of attention,
and to the creative relationship between networking and financial bootstrapping
As creativity is increasingly recognised as a vital component of
entrepreneurship, researchers and educators struggle to reform enterprise
pedagogy. To help in this effort, we use a personality test and open-ended
interviews to explore creativity between two groups of entrepreneurship
masters' students: one at a business school and one at an engineering school.
The findings indicate that both groups had high creative potential, but that
engineering students channelled this into practical and incremental efforts
whereas the business students were more speculative and had a clearer market
focus. The findings are drawn on to make some suggestions for
The present study aims at investigating the role of risk in the activity
of independent technological venturing. Altogether 12 deep-interviews were
conducted with technological entrepreneurs, who had taken part in the
inventive, developmental and the commercialisation phases of a technologybased
innovation process. The interviews revealed a number of enactment
approaches through which these innovators encountered and affected (dealt
with or transformed) risk within the innovation process. Factors thus developed
from the empirical material included: human capital, pace and priority, the
world moves, activating social networks, risk learning, risk incrementalism,
maintaining venture agility, and creating and sustaining autonomy. The paper
presents a theoretical contextualisation as to the significance of these factors,
and finally suggests a number of ways in which these may be interpreted for the
benefit of innovation management.
This paper explores the relevance of the concept of self in the process of independent
technological innovation. In-depth interviews were conducted with technological innovators from
start-up firms in IT, biotech and advanced services concerning the subjective and social forms of
engagement in the innovation process. Emerging factors in the interview data revealed aspects
pertaining to the innovator's reflexive self-conception, innovator ego-involvement in the venture,
forms of commitment and control, personal and social stakes, and various self-oriented cognitive
strategies. It is argued that the self-concept allows the innovator to come into view as a social and
subjective being who is involved in reflexive activities such as dynamic role-taking, "is" vs "ought"
reflections and social negotiations.