How Founder Human Capital and Founding Conditions Shape New Firm Performance: A Study of Necessity Entrepreneurship during Times of Economic Crisis

Marc Gruber, John C. Dencker, Argyro (Iro) Nikiforou

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Abstract

Economic crises have profound effects on societies, motivating many individuals to launch their own firms in order to make a living. Although these firms created ‘out of necessity’ possess few resources besides their founder’s human capital, the role that this critical endowment plays in establishing a successful firm during a crisis is unclear, as existing knowledge offers diverging predictions about the value of general and specific human capital. We argue that this debate remains unresolved because we lack a holistic understanding of how each human capital type influences performance when founding conditions vary, and aim to reconcile the contrasting claims by considering how “hard” a crisis hits a given industry. Analyzing data collected from 500 founders who created firms in Greece during the Great Recession, combined with data from the Greek Statistical Office, we find that general human capital provides the greatest benefits, on average, during a crisis; yet, specific human capital is more valuable in both the most favorable and the most unfavorable industry contexts. These results reveal how the value of human capital in entrepreneurship is contingent on founding conditions and call into question existing notions of what it means to be resilient in a crisis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
ISSN1948-0989
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

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