History and geography matter : The cultural dimension of entrepreneurship

Abstract: This dissertation deals with the rise of new industries through entrepreneurial activities. The aim is to investigate how differences in contexts might encourage or discourage entrepreneurial activities. This contextualization of entrepreneurship enhanced our understanding of when, how and why entrepreneurial activities happen.Entrepreneurship is recognized to be a spatially uneven process and, in addition to previous research that has examined the actions of individual entrepreneurs, we also need to understand the context in which entrepreneurship occurs. We have a good understanding of how structural conditions like industry structure, organization structure and agglomeration effects influence the context, but we know little about how the social dimension of the context is the transmitting medium between structural conditions for entrepreneurship and the decision to act upon identified entrepreneurial opportunities. Following this line of argument, this dissertation is built on the assumption that entrepreneurship is a social phenomenon which gives strong arguments for including local culture in entrepreneurship research.The temporal persistence and the pronounced differences of culture and structural conditions between places reflect path-dependent processes. I therefore use regional path dependence as an interpretative lens to study the contextualization of entrepreneurship in two Swedish cities.Although each context is unique, some generalizations can be drawn from the four individual papers in this dissertation. The first is that industrial legacy leads to the formation of a distinct local culture and that the persistency of this culture influences the subsequent entrepreneurial activities in new local industries. The second is that this persistency of culture suggests that entrepreneurs who are outsiders, geographically or socially, are the driving forces for the emergence of new local industries. Finally, new industry emergence is a result of a combination of exogenous forces and initial local conditions, but it is the entrepreneurial individuals who translate these forces and conditions into entrepreneurial activities.