The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 567–593 | Cite as

“To have and have not”: founders’ human capital and university start-up survival

  • Giuseppe Criaco
  • Tommaso Minola
  • Pablo Migliorini
  • Christian Serarols-Tarrés


In order to preserve innovation, knowledge development and diffusion, as well as the transfer of new technologies, the emergence of University Start-Ups (USU) and their survival as a particular dimension of performance represents a relevant research topic. As USU generally have scarce initial resources, the human capital of their founders is one of their main business assets. Although the survival of such firms is supposed to be heavily dependent on the human capital characteristics of their founders, this has not received enough attention in existing research. In this paper we investigate the contribution of founders’ specific human capital characteristics to the survival of USU, building on Gimeno et al. (Adm Sci Q 42:750–783, 1997) threshold model of entrepreneurial exit. We divide USU founders’ specific human capital into three components (entrepreneurship, industry and university) in order to better understand its impact on firm survival. Our theoretical model is empirically tested on a unique sample of Catalan USU through a logistic regression analysis. Coherently with our theoretical reasoning, the results show that industry human capital negatively affect USU survival, while university human capital and entrepreneurship human capital enhance the likelihood of USU survival.


Human capital Survival University start-up University spin-off Academic entrepreneurship Threshold 

JEL Classification

J24 L25 L26 O30 



We are grateful to Massimo Baù, Joan Lluis Capelleras, Francesco Chirico, Javier Gimeno, Erik Lehmann, Alex Rialp, Josep Rialp, Silvio Vismara, as well as two anonymous JoTT referees, for their helpful comments and suggestions. The first author would like to thank Cristina Jimenez for her support. Earlier versions of this paper also benefited from presentations at the ICSB George Washington University Global Entrepreneurship Research and Policy Conference (October 2011, Washington DC), the Cisalpino Institute for Comparative Studies in Europe (CCSE) Doctoral Workshop (March 2012, Bergamo) and the International Symposium on Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ISEI) (May 2012, Venice).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuseppe Criaco
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tommaso Minola
    • 3
  • Pablo Migliorini
    • 2
  • Christian Serarols-Tarrés
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Organization and Leadership (ESOL), Centre for Family Enterprise and Ownership (CeFEO)Jönköping International Business SchoolJönköpingSweden
  2. 2.Department of Business EconomicsAutonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)Cerdanyola del Vallés, BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Economics and Technology Management and Center for Young and Family Enterprise (CYFE)University of BergamoBergamoItaly

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