Entrepreneurs and their networks in the Dutch ICT sector
01 / 2002 - unknown
This study examines the contribution of start-up entrepreneurs, dynamic firms and their networks to the emergence of the ICT and Internet industrial community in the Netherlands between 1980 and 2000. Besides building on previous work by the research team on the peculiarities of the new entrepreneurial economy and the importance of new young companies and their networks (e.g. Audretsch & Thurik, 2001; Elfring & Hulsink, 2002), this proposal elaborates on the ICT starters and their networks project that was recently funded by NWO-MES. That study is generating a number of hypotheses on the basis of 30 indepth case-studies on entrepreneurial firms and their founders, concerning the way a particular mix of strong and weak ties contribute to the early development of ICT and Internet ventures. These hypotheses need to be tested to clarify and resolve some of the confusion and inconclusive results in the literature on the particular role of networks in entrepreneurship. In this proposal, the emphasis will be on the emergence and creation of the Dutch ICT and Internet community between 1980 and 2000 (from the PC to Internet 2). In the shaping of these new technologies and markets over time, several inputs can be distinguished: the role of large integrated firms (e.g. Philips, KPN) and research laboratories (e.g. CWI), the dynamic posed by start-up firms (either individually or organizationally induced: e.g. Prolin and several of its offshoots), and the indirect and facilitating role played by institutions addressing particular needs of entrepreneurs and young firms (e.g. venture capitalists, law firms, innovation & transfer centres etc.). This proposal follows the distinction made in the previous research design between entrepreneurs without and those with a support network. In the first group of 'lonesome cowboys', the entrepreneur or entrepreneurial team initially sets out by using several weak ties and transforming some of them into strong partners at a later development stage. The tentative results in the previous study on the network dynamics of lone starters seem to be in conflict with some of the existing literature (Hite and Hesterly, 2001). This issue will be addressed in the proposed study by using actor-oriented statistical models on a larger sample of start-up entrepreneurs (Van de Bunt, 1999). Besides plenty of successful ventures, both type of start-ups generate failures as well. Interesting questions in that respect are: are failures real failures; are they able to learn and recycle some of their ideas, people, and assets in a new firm? The so-called recombinant firm and 'flexible recycling' are new phenomena worthwhile to study in more detail. First, there is much to learn from failures and secondly, the recombinant firm and its network contributes in a particular way the emergence and growth of the ICT and Internet business community.