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Founder's human capital, entry strategies and start-up size

  • Gottschalk, Sandra
  • Müller, Kathrin
  • Niefert, Michaela

This paper analyzes empirically the determinants of new born firms' initial size. As survival prospects of young firms tend to be linked to a firm's start-up size, a better understanding of the factors influencing start-up size is crucial. Most of the rare literature on initial firm size focuses on industry characteristics. We contribute to the understanding of the determinants of initial firm size by analyzing firm specific factors such as founders' human capital composition and entry strategies. We find that in addition to industry effects start-up size is considerably influenced by the human capital of firm founders. We distinguish between generic and specific human capital. Generic human capital refers to the general knowledge acquired through formal education and professional experience and usually coincides with a higher personal wealth. Specific human capital comprises competences that can be directly applied to the entrepreneurial job. For generic human capital we find that having a university degree has a positive influence on start-up size. The same applies for general working experience proxied by the founder's age. For the specific human capital components we find that successful entrepreneurial experience and managerial experience gained in dependent employment support a higher start-up size. Altogether, specific human capital tends to have a larger impact on initial size than generic human capital. Entry strategies are expected to have a crucial influence on start-up size, because objectives of market entry largely determine the resources a firm requires. We distinguish between different types of entry strategies. On the one hand, we look at entry strategies based on innovation. We measure innovation by a variable which indicates if a firm carries out continuous R&D. On the other hand, entry is classified according to the main motive of the founders for firm formation. We conclude that different motives are accompanied by diverse entry strategies. The four main groups of entry strategies are independency entrepreneurship, opportunity entrepreneurship, spin-out entrepreneurship and necessity entrepreneurship. The results indicate that firms conducting R&D continuously start larger than others when measuring initial employment in full-time equivalents. We do not observe a significant effect on start-up size measured in head counts. This suggests that R&D tasks are mostly carried out by fulltime employees and to a lesser extent by persons working part-time for the firm. Further, firms with entry strategies based on the exploitation of new market opportunities as well as spin-out entrepreneurship exhibit a higher initial size while start-ups established from necessity appear to start at a smaller scale.

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Paper provided by ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research in its series ZEW Discussion Papers with number 09-030.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:09030
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  1. P.A. Geroski & José Mata & Pedro Portugal, 2003. "Founding Conditions and the Survival of New Firms," Working Papers w200301, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
  2. Almus, Matthias & Nerlinger, Eric A, 2000. "Testing "Gibrat's Law" for Young Firms--Empirical Results for West Germany," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 1-12, August.
  3. Luís M B Cabral & José Mata, 2003. "On the Evolution of the Firm Size Distribution: Facts and Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1075-1090, September.
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  8. Marcelo Resende, 2007. "Determinants of firm start-up size in the Brazilian industry: an empirical investigation," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(8), pages 1053-1058.
  9. Gary S. Becker, 1975. "Investment in Human Capital: Rates of Return," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis, with Special Reference to Education, Second Edition, pages 45-144 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Mata, Jose & Machado, Jose A. F., 1996. "Firm start-up size: A conditional quantile approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 1305-1323, June.
  12. Lotti, Francesca & Santarelli, Enrico & Vivarelli, Marco, 2007. "Defending Gibrat’s Law as a Long-Run Regularity," IZA Discussion Papers 2744, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Almus, Matthias & Nerlinger, Eric A, 1999. "Growth of New Technology-Based Firms: Which Factors Matter?," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 141-54, September.
  14. Josep-Maria Arauzo-Carod & Agustí Segarra-Blasco, 2005. "The Determinants of Entry are not Independent of Start-up Size: Some Evidence from Spanish Manufacturing," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 27(2), pages 147-165, 09.
  15. Moulton, Brent R, 1990. "An Illustration of a Pitfall in Estimating the Effects of Aggregate Variables on Micro Unit," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(2), pages 334-38, May.
  16. Mata, Jose, 1996. "Markets, entrepreneurs and the size of new firms," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 89-94, July.
  17. Colombo, Massimo G. & Delmastro, Marco & Grilli, Luca, 2004. "Entrepreneurs' human capital and the start-up size of new technology-based firms," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 22(8-9), pages 1183-1211, November.
  18. Gorg, Holger & Strobl, Eric & Ruane, Frances, 2000. "Determinants of Firm Start-Up Size: An Application of Quantile Regression for Ireland," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 211-22, May.
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