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Contextualizing the categorical imperative: Category linkages, technology focus, and resource acquisition in nanotechnology entrepreneurship


  • Wry, Tyler
  • Lounsbury, Michael


This paper examines the role of category affiliations in entrepreneurial resource acquisition. Pace existing studies, we suggest category spanning will cause firms to be overlooked or discounted because evaluators assume that they have less expertise than their category-focused competitors; a phenomenon known as the ‘categorical imperative’. We suggest, however, that categories can be related both vertically and horizontally, and that this has important implications for understanding how the actors that span between them are evaluated. Studying startup ventures in nanotube technology, we show that venture capital investments were affected by a firm's position across patent classes that were related at both of these levels of analysis and that the interaction between them had implications for which firms received the largest investments.

Suggested Citation

  • Wry, Tyler & Lounsbury, Michael, 2013. "Contextualizing the categorical imperative: Category linkages, technology focus, and resource acquisition in nanotechnology entrepreneurship," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 117-133.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jbvent:v:28:y:2013:i:1:p:117-133
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2012.03.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Rodolphe Durand & Robert M. Grant & Tammy L. Madsen & Gino Cattani & Joseph F. Porac & Howard Thomas, 2017. "Categories and competition," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(1), pages 64-92, January.
    2. Michael Lounsbury & Christine M. Beckman, 2015. "Celebrating Organization Theory," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 288-308, March.
    3. Gianluca Carnabuci & Elisa Operti & Balázs Kovács, 2015. "The Categorical Imperative and Structural Reproduction: Dynamics of Technological Entry in the Semiconductor Industry," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(6), pages 1734-1751, December.
    4. J.-P. Vergne & Tyler Wry, 2014. "Categorizing Categorization Research: Review, Integration, and Future Directions," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 56-94, January.
    5. Rodolphe Durand & Jean-Philippe Vergne, 2015. "Asset divestment as a response to media attacks in stigmatized industries," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(8), pages 1205-1223, August.
    6. Younger, Shannon & Fisher, Greg, 2020. "The exemplar enigma: New venture image formation in an emergent organizational category," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 35(1).
    7. Tang, Yi & Wezel, Filippo Carlo, 2015. "Up to standard?," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 452-466.
    8. McCarthy, Killian J. & Aalbers, Hendrik Leendert, 2016. "Technological acquisitions: The impact of geography on post-acquisition innovative performance," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(9), pages 1818-1832.
    9. Peter Younkin & Keyvan Kashkooli, 2020. "Stay True to Your Roots? Category Distance, Hierarchy, and the Performance of New Entrants in the Music Industry," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(3), pages 604-627, May.
    10. Goldenstein, Jan & Hunoldt, Michael & Oertel, Simon, 2019. "How optimal distinctiveness affects new ventures' failure risk: A contingency perspective," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 477-495.
    11. Jade Yu-Chieh Lo & Mark Thomas Kennedy, 2015. "Approval in Nanotechnology Patents: Micro and Macro Factors That Affect Reactions to Category Blending," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(1), pages 119-139, February.
    12. Zhao, Hongxin & Lu, Jiangyong, 2016. "Contingent value of political capital in bank loan acquisition: Evidence from founder-controlled private enterprises in China," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 153-174.
    13. Gras, David & Mendoza-Abarca, Karla I., 2014. "Risky business? The survival implications of exploiting commercial opportunities by nonprofits," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 392-404.
    14. Poonam Khanna & Lemaro Thompson & Michael Mcdonald, 2015. "Research On Venture Capital Firms’ ‘Investment Behavior A Review’," Working Papers 0197mgt, College of Business, University of Texas at San Antonio.


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