Well, that makes sense! : Investigating opportunity development in a technology start-up

Abstract: Digital technologies have profoundly reshaped many industries in the past years and we are continuously witnessing the creation of new ventures designing and serving entirely new markets. At the heart of these initiatives lies decisions to act, take risk and pursue ideas in the form of entrepreneurial opportunities. Much of the research on the journey from ideas to market has advanced from the idea that entrepreneurial agency emerges at the nexus of individuals and opportunities. In most academic work, opportunities are either assumed to be exogenous to the individual or socially constructed. Despite many valuable contributions in the field, the construct as it has traditionally been used only accounts for and explains opportunities once they have been realized. Hence, the established perspectives fall short in informing our understanding of how individuals actually act and make decisions that lead up to the identification and exploitation of opportunities that lack tangible premises. The question is therefore, how do we define and understand entrepreneurial opportunities before they have been realized and how do we make the construct empirically operable? The present study challenges and extends the conventional views of entrepreneurial opportunities by investigating what they are and how they emerge and evolve over time. By drawing upon in-depth qualitative data from a longitudinal study of the new venture creation process of a digital TV and film production firm, the thesis provides a reconceptualization of the opportunity construct. External enablers, a new venture idea, a business model and opportunity confidence are suggested as components that clarify what aspiring entrepreneurs actually mean when they talk about opportunities. Departing from these components, the thesis provides a framework describing opportunity development as an iterative process evolving through modes of sensemaking, sensegiving and sensebreaking. This framework adds to entrepreneurial process studies by extending the individual-opportunity nexus to include the actions and interactions between the entrepreneurs and the external environment in which they operate. The results lay a foundation for future theorizing and empirical inquiry into the early stages of new venture creation.

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