A Career Beyond Startups: Entrepreneurial Competencies in the Careers of Venture Creation Program Graduates

Abstract: The entrepreneurial career is an emerging concept in entrepreneurship research. When aiming to understand the trajectory of those embarking on entrepreneurial careers, research has predominantly focused on those who found start-ups. Firm founding is also widely used in research to assess outcomes of entrepreneurship educations. This thesis questions a firm formation view on entrepreneurial careers and instead develops an entrepreneurial-competencies’ perspective. The empirical context of this thesis is three Nordic master’s level venture creation programs (VCP). VCPs are designed to enable students to develop competencies for transforming opportunities into viable businesses, using the experience of developing a real-life venture as the main learning vessel. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate career trajectories based upon an entrepreneurial career perspective, that includes entrepreneurial competencies facilitated through VCPs. The aim is to identify entrepreneurial career trajectories by describing entrepreneurial competencies in relation to the career, allowing trajectories beyond those solely addressing firm founding.  Entrepreneurial competencies developed from VCPs are applied similarly in subsequent careers, whether that career choice is as self-employed, a hybrid entrepreneur, or an intrapreneur. Pre-conditions, such as the role of prior entrepreneurial experiences and being raised in an entrepreneurial family are found to have limited impact on career choice for graduates, relative to educational influence. The thesis also identifies distinct archetypical (entrepreneurial) career trajectories, indicating sustainable careers after an education in entrepreneurship. This implies that VCPs, extending also to entrepreneurship education overall, have relevance not only to firm founding, but also to entrepreneurial positions in established organizations regarding graduates’ applied entrepreneurial competencies in subsequent careers.  Policy-wise the study implies a need to rethink present policies and appreciate the wider value of entrepreneurship education programs beyond merely firm formation. Research-wise the thesis suggests a change in perspective from firm formation to entrepreneurial competencies, which opens up for a more comprehensive and holistic theory on entrepreneurial careers.  It has given new insights into how we can discuss careers of entrepreneurial individuals – focusing the questions to what you do, how you view yourself doing it, and how a progression of these questions makes up an entrepreneurial career.

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