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Where do they come from? Prevalence and characteristics of nascent entrepreneurs


  • Frederic Delmar
  • Per Davidsson


This paper reports on a unique study of a large, random sample of business start-ups that were identified prior to the actual, commercial launch of the ventures. The purpose of this paper is two-fold. First, to present frequencies on the involvement of the Swedish population in the small business sector (particularly in start-ups of firms) and to compare these with estimates from Norway and the USA, which are based on studies using a similar research design. The authors also discuss the possible reasons for the differences that emerge between countries. Second, the characteristics of nascent entrepreneurs (i.e. individuals trying to start an independent business) are analysed and compared for sub-groups within the sample and with characteristics of business founders as they appear in theoretical accounts or retrospective empirical studies of surviving all firms. In order to get a representative sample from the working age population, respondents ( n = 30,427) were randomly selected and interviewed by telephone. It was found that 2.0% of the Swedish population at the time of the interview were trying to start an independent business. Sweden had a significantly lower prevalence rate of nascent entrepreneurs compared to Norway and the USA. Nascent entrepreneurs were then compared to a control group of people not trying to start a business. The results confirmed findings from previous studies of business founders pointing to the importance of role models and the impression of self-employment obtained through these, employment status, age, education and experience. Marital status, the number of children in the household, and length of employment experience were unrelated to the probability of becoming a nascent entrepreneur. The gender of the respondent was the strongest distinguishing factor. Importantly, the results suggest that while one has a reasonably good understanding of the characteristics associated with men going into business for themselves, the type of variables investigated here have very limited ability to predict nascent entrepreneur status for women.

Suggested Citation

  • Frederic Delmar & Per Davidsson, 2000. "Where do they come from? Prevalence and characteristics of nascent entrepreneurs," Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1), pages 1-23, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:entreg:v:12:y:2000:i:1:p:1-23
    DOI: 10.1080/089856200283063

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