Exploring knowledge and learning in new technology-based firms in an early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem
Montoya Martinez, Elizabeth
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This thesis investigates knowledge and learning in new technology-based firms (NTBFs) in an early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem. Previous work on entrepreneurial learning suggests that experiential learning, vicarious learning and exploration are the learning types that entrepreneurs use to manage knowledge, and that this leads to the creation of entrepreneurial knowledge. While the majority of previous research involves entrepreneurial learning that is based on absorptive capacity (ACAP) to generate competitive advantage, this study examines how new venture teams (NVTs) manage new and prior knowledge when developing and commercialising software. The knowledge-based view (KBV) regards knowledge as the most important resource to allocate. This research adopts this approach in exploring how NVTs acquire, assimilate and use new knowledge. Based on a framework encompassing networks, prior knowledge and knowledge management the study explores, examines and analyses: i. Entrepreneurial networks; ii. Early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystems; iii. NVTs’ prior knowledge; and iv. Knowledge integration activities. The research adopts a qualitative approach and methodology comprising two stages. The first one captures the perceptions of multiple agents involved in the entrepreneurial networks in Colombia, from government, academia and support institutions (private and public). In the second stage eight NVTs from Medellín were asked to describe the resources and source of resources used when developing and commercialising the first innovative product while creating and establishing the NTBF; their answers were validated in a second interview using a mind map to illustrate key events and key sources of new knowledge. Analysis of the data reveals that even in early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystems, NVTs acquire knowledge from external sources, such as mentors, intermediaries and customers. This finding echoes the importance of ACAP in NTBF creation and survival. Moreover, NVTs acquire knowledge from internal sources of knowledge, such as new members, experience and formal education. In general, regardless of how related, specific and complementary the prior knowledge of the NVT is, all cases use external and internal knowledge integration activities. This study provides new insights into the nature of knowledge integration and has clarified distinctions between two key substantive capabilities in NTBFs: developing a technology and commercialising a new product. As regard to the KBV, the thesis also shows how entrepreneurial and innovative networks helped with the acquisition of new knowledge in an early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem. This new knowledge can be market-related but also technical-related, and can also be acquired by outsourcing when the NVT’s knowledge base is not specialised in the technology that the firm offers. NVTs manage prior and new knowledge when developing and commercialising new technologies while they create and establish the NTBF, for by doing so they also focus on sales to maintain cash flow. The study suggests that members of NVTs work together, make decisions together and are both reflective and selective when choosing their sources of new knowledge in NTBFs. This study has important implications for policymakers and practitioners. While current policies and entrepreneurs recognise networks as the most important source of knowledge, findings of this research suggests that internal sources of knowledge are equally important, therefore NVTs must also develop internal knowledge integration abilities.