The role of the entrepreneur in the international new venture – opening the black box

University dissertation from Halmstad : Högskolan i Halmstad

Abstract: Despite significant research output in recent decades on international new ventures (INVs),little attention has been paid to understanding the processes and conditions under whichthe entrepreneur identifies and exploits an opportunity and subsequently creates valuewithin the firm. As a result, the dynamics involved in the role of the entrepreneur during theestablishment and internationalization of INVs remain in a black box. In order to understandthe context, interaction among players and other dynamics involved before, during, and afterthe establishment of the INV’s creation and development, a different approach is needed. Theaim of this dissertation is to describe and understand the role of entrepreneurs in the processof establishment and internationalization of international new ventures.Three longitudinal case studies were conducted between 1999 and 2008 with a total of 108interviews using snowball sampling. In addition, comprehensive secondary data have beencollected to enrich the empirical cases with thick descriptions, and to enhance content validityas well as the reliability of the research.This study offers a more nuanced picture of how entrepreneurs’ characteristics influencethe international development of their firms. For example, it appears that it was neitherthe previous foreign experience, the education, nor the previously developed internationalnetwork (as suggested by previous literature) that can be credited for the rapid and vastinternationalization of the case firms. Instead, it is suggested that an entrepreneur’schildhood and prior life story directly influences their behaviour in the INV. We proposethat different types of entrepreneurs are important factors to understanding firms’ differentinternationalization patterns. Depending on the backgrounds of the entrepreneurs, theydeveloped preferences, skills, and especially desires that would come to affect the totalbehaviour of their future organizations. This study also develops the notion of psychicdistance into three separate spaces - the physical, the mental and the social space. Forexample, the context and experience during childhood creates the foundations for theentrepreneurs’ mental and social space, which can separately, but also in relation toeach other, offer a more accurate and deeper understanding of the actions taken by theentrepreneurs in the INV. Furthermore, this study has shown that the role and characteristicsof the entrepreneur do change over time, which also determines the individual’s sensitivity toopportunities and the international behaviour of the company.

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