The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 714–733 | Cite as

Academic spin-offs’ entrepreneurial teams and performance: a subgroups approach

  • Cyrine Ben-HafaïedhEmail author
  • Alessandra Micozzi
  • Pierpaolo Pattitoni


Academic spin-offs’ entrepreneurial teams generally concentrate high levels of research and development experience while they are often found lacking in commercial skills. This prompts the integration of surrogate entrepreneurs (practitioners) but the literature questions the effectiveness of these artificially created teams. We argue that faultline theory applied to this context of different identity-based subgroups in a team can provide important insight, and complement the traditional approaches to top team diversity such as upper echelons theory. Our research compares the impact of the three main possible academic spin-off entrepreneurial team configurations on the two principal success-related tasks, innovation and sales, and considers the role important stakeholders, such as public research institutions and industrial partners, can have. In a sample of 164 academic spin-offs, we show that certain configurations are more suited to certain objectives and that faultline theory does indeed contribute to better our understanding of the entrepreneurial teams’ outcomes. Furthermore, the expectations one might have with regard to the extended entrepreneurial team as a possible remedy for weak core team configurations are not supported by our data. Implications for theory and practice are provided.


Academic spin-offs Commercial performance Diversity Entrepreneurial teams Faultline theory Innovation 

JEL Classification

L26 M13 O30 



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and the Guest Editors James Cunningham and Paul O’Reilly for their comprehensive work, as well as participants of the Dublin 2015 Technology Transfer Conference for their feedback on an earlier draft of this paper.


  1. Beckman, C. M., Burton, M. D., & O’Reilly, C. (2007). Early teams: The impact of team demography on VC financing and going public. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(2), 147–173. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2006.02.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ben-Hafaïedh, C. (2017). Entrepreneurial teams research in movement. In C. Ben-Hafaïedh & T. M. Cooney (Eds.), Research handbook on entrepreneurial teams: Theory and practice. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Carton, A. M., & Cummings, J. N. (2012). A theory of subgroups in work teams. Academy of Management Review, 37(3), 441–470. doi: 10.5465/amr.2009.0322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Colombo, M. G., & Grilli, L. (2005). Founders’ human capital and the growth of new technology-based firms: A competence-based view. Research Policy, 34(6), 795–816. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2005.03.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Colombo, M. G., & Grilli, L. (2009). A capital partnership: How human and venture capital affect the growth of high-tech start-ups. Strategic Change, 18(7/8), 231–239. doi: 10.1002/jsc.850.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Criaco, G., Minola, T., Migliorini, P., & Serarols-Tarrés, C. (2014). “To have and have not”: Founders’ human capital and university start-up survival. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 39(4), 567–593. doi: 10.1007/s10961-013-9312-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diánez-González, J., & Camelo-Ordaz, C. (2015). How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’ entrepreneurial orientation: The mediating role of conflict. The Journal of Technology Transfer. doi: 10.1007/s10961-015-9428-5.Google Scholar
  9. Djokovic, D., & Souitaris, V. (2008). Spinouts from academic institutions: A literature review with suggestions for further research. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 33(3), 225–247. doi: 10.1007/s10961-006-9000-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Druilhe, C., & Garnsey, E. (2004). Do academic spin-outs differ and does it matter? The Journal of Technology Transfer, 29(3–4), 269–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ensley, M. D., & Hmieleski, K. M. (2005). A comparative study of new venture top management team composition, dynamics and performance between university-based and independent start-ups. Research Policy, 34(7), 1091–1105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ensley, M. D., Pearson, A. W., & Amason, A. C. (2002). Understanding the dynamics of new venture top management teams: Cohesion, conflict, and new venture performance. Journal of Business Venturing, 17(4), 365–386. doi: 10.1016/S0883-9026(00)00065-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fini, R., Fu, K., Mathisen, M. T., Rasmussen, E., & Wright, M. (2016). Institutional determinants of university spin-off quantity and quality: A longitudinal, multilevel, cross-country study. Small Business Economics. doi: 10.1007/s11187-016-9779-9.Google Scholar
  14. Fini, R., Grimaldi, R., Santoni, S., & Sobrero, M. (2011). Complements or substitutes? The role of universities and local context in supporting the creation of academic spin-offs. Research Policy, 40(8), 1113–1127. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2011.05.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Franklin, S. J., Wright, M., & Lockett, A. (2001). Academic and surrogate entrepreneurs in university spin-out companies. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 26(1–2), 127–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gibson, C., & Vermeulen, F. (2003). A healthy divide: Subgroups as a stimulus for team learning behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48(2), 202–239. doi: 10.2307/3556657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grandi, A., & Grimaldi, R. (2003). Exploring the networking characteristics of new venture founding teams. Small Business Economics, 21(4), 329–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hambrick, D. C. (2007). Upper echelons theory: An update. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 334–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, C. (1984). Upper Echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9(2), 193–206.Google Scholar
  20. Harrison, D. A., & Klein, K. J. (2007). What’s the difference? Diversity constructs as separation, variety, or disparity in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1199–1228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heirman, A., & Clarysse, B. (2006). The early growth of research-based start-ups. In J. Wiklund, D. Dimov, J. A. Katz, & D. A. Shepherd (Eds.), Entrepreneurship: Frameworks and empirical investigations from forthcoming leaders of European research (Advances in entrepreneurship, firm emergence and growth) (Vol. 9, pp. 195–227). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  22. Higashide, H., & Birley, S. (2002). The consequences of conflict between the venture capitalist and the entrepreneurial team in the United Kingdom from the perspective of the venture capitalist. Journal of Business Venturing, 17(1), 59–81. doi: 10.1016/S0883-9026(00)00057-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hilbe, J. M. (2011). Negative binomial regression (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Homberg, F., & Bui, H. T. M. (2013). Top management team diversity: A systematic review. Group and Organization Management, 38(4), 455–479. doi: 10.1177/1059601113493925.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Horwitz, S. K., & Horwitz, I. B. (2007). The effects of team diversity on team outcomes: A meta-analytic review of team demography. Journal of Management, 33(6), 987–1015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hsu, D. H. (2007). Experienced entrepreneurial founders, organizational capital, and venture capital funding. Research Policy, 36(5), 722–741. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2007.02.022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huyghe, A., Knockaert, M., Wright, M., & Piva, E. (2014). Technology transfer offices as boundary spanners in the pre-spin-off process: The case of a hybrid model. Small Business Economics, 43(2), 289–307. doi: 10.1007/s11187-013-9537-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Iacobucci, D., Iacopini, A., Micozzi, A., & Orsini, S. (2011). Fostering entrepreneurship in academic spin-offs. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 12(4), 513–533. doi: 10.1504/ijesb.2011.039689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Iacobucci, D., & Micozzi, A. (2015). How to evaluate the impact of academic spin-offs on local development: An empirical analysis of the Italian case. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 40(3), 434–452. doi: 10.1007/s10961-014-9357-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kassicieh, S. (2011). Benefits from using surrogate entrepreneurs in technology commercialization. International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management, 8(04), 521–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Klotz, A. C., Hmieleski, K. M., Bradley, B. H., & Busenitz, L. W. (2014). New venture teams: A review of the literature and roadmap for future research. Journal of Management, 40(1), 226–255. doi: 10.1177/0149206313493325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Knockaert, M., Ucbasaran, D., Wright, M., & Clarysse, B. (2011). The relationship between knowledge transfer, top management team composition, and performance: The case of science-based entrepreneurial firms. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35(4), 777–803. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2010.00405.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lau, D. C., & Murnighan, J. K. (1998). Demographic diversity and faultlines: The compositional dynamics of organizational groups. Academy of Management Review, 23(2), 325–340.Google Scholar
  34. Lazarsfeld, P. F., & Merton, R. K. (1954). Friendship as a social process: A substantive and methodological analysis. In R. M. MacIver, T. F. Abel, M. Berger, & C. H. Page (Eds.), Freedom and Control in Modern Society (pp. 18–66). New York: D. Van Nostrand Co.Google Scholar
  35. Lejpras, A. (2014). How innovative are spin-offs at later stages of development? Comparing innovativeness of established research spin-offs and otherwise created firms. Small Business Economics, 43(2), 327–351. doi: 10.1007/s11187-013-9534-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Li, J., & Hambrick, D. C. (2005). Factional groups: A new vantage on demographic faultlines, conflict, and disintegration in work teams. Academy of Management Journal, 48(5), 794–813.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lim, J. Y.-K., Busenitz, L. W., & Chidambaram, L. (2013). New venture teams and the quality of business opportunities identified: Faultlines between subgroups of founders and investors. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 37(1), 47–67. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00550.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lockett, A., Siegel, D., Wright, M., & Ensley, M. D. (2005). The creation of spin-off firms at public research institutions: Managerial and policy implications. Research Policy, 34(7), 981–993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marvel, M. R., & Lumpkin, G. T. (2007). Technology entrepreneurs’ human capital and its effects on innovation radicalness. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 31(6), 807–828. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2007.00209.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27(1), 415–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Müller, K. (2010). Academic spin-off’s transfer speed—Analyzing the time from leaving university to venture. Research Policy, 39(2), 189–199. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2009.12.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Newbert, S. L., Kirchhoff, B. A., & Walsh, S. T. (2007). Defining the relationship among founding resources, strategies, and performance in technology-intensive new ventures: Evidence from the semiconductor silicon industry. Journal of Small Business Management, 45(4), 438–466. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-627X.2007.00222.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nooteboom, B., Van Haverbeke, W., Duysters, G., Gilsing, V., & van den Oord, A. (2007). Optimal cognitive distance and absorptive capacity. Research Policy, 36(7), 1016–1034. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2007.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nyberg, A. J., Moliterno, T. P., Hale, D., & Lepak, D. P. (2014). Resource-based perspectives on unit-level human capital: A review and integration. Journal of Management, 40(1), 316–346. doi: 10.1177/0149206312458703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ortín-Ángel, P., & Vendrell-Herrero, F. (2014). University spin-offs vs. other NTBFs: Total factor productivity differences at outset and evolution. Technovation, 34(2), 101–112. doi: 10.1016/j.technovation.2013.09.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Powers, J. B., & McDougall, P. P. (2005). University start-up formation and technology licensing with firms that go public: A resource-based view of academic entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 20(3), 291–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rasmussen, E. (2011). Understanding academic entrepreneurship: Exploring the emergence of university spin-off ventures using process theories. International Small Business Journal, 29(5), 448–471. doi: 10.1177/0266242610385395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rasmussen, E., & Wright, M. (2015). How can universities facilitate academic spin-offs? An entrepreneurial competency perspective. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 40(5), 782–799. doi: 10.1007/s10961-014-9386-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Samsom, K. J., & Gurdon, M. A. (1993). University scientists as entrepreneurs: A special case of technology transfer and high-tech venturing. Technovation, 13(2), 63–71. doi: 10.1016/0166-4972(93)90054-Y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stephan, A. (2014). Are public research spin-offs more innovative? Small Business Economics, 43(2), 353–368. doi: 10.1007/s11187-013-9539-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behaviour. In S. Worchel & W. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations. Chicago: Nelson Hall.Google Scholar
  52. Thatcher, S. M. B., Jehn, K., & Zanutto, E. (2003). Cracks in diversity research: The effects of diversity faultlines on conflict and performance. Group Decision and Negotiation, 12(3), 217–241. doi: 10.1023/a:1023325406946.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thatcher, S. M. B., & Patel, P. C. (2012). Group faultlines: A review, integration, and guide to future research. Journal of Management, 38(4), 969–1009. doi: 10.1177/0149206311426187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Unger, J. M., Rauch, A., Frese, M., & Rosenbusch, N. (2011). Human capital and entrepreneurial success: A meta-analytical review. Journal of Business Venturing, 26, 341–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. van Burg, E., Romme, A. G. L., Gilsing, V. A., & Reymen, I. M. M. J. (2008). Creating university spin-offs: A science-based design perspective. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 25(2), 114–128. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2008.00291.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. van der Steen, M., Englis, P. D., & Englis, B. G. (2013). Scientific team effectiveness and the external CEO: A study of biotechnology university spin-offs. Industry and Higher Education, 27(1), 15–25. doi: 10.5367/ihe.2013.0138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vanaelst, I., Clarysse, B., Wright, M., Lockett, A., Moray, N., & S’Jegers, R. (2006). Entrepreneurial team development in academic spinouts: An examination of team heterogeneity. Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, 30(2), 249–271.Google Scholar
  58. Verbeek, M. (2012). A guide to modern econometrics (4th ed.). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  59. Visintin, F., & Pittino, D. (2014). Founding team composition and early performance of university-based spin-off companies. Technovation, 34(1), 31–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vohora, A., Wright, M., & Lockett, A. (2004). Critical junctures in the development of university high-tech spinout companies. Research Policy, 33(1), 147–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Vyakarnam, S., & Handelberg, J. (2005). Four themes of the impact of management teams on organizational performance. International Small Business Journal, 23(3), 236–256. doi: 10.1177/0266242605052072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wright, M., Clarysse, B., Mustar, P., & Lockett, A. (2007a). Entrepreneurial teams in spin-offs. Academic entrepreneurship in Europe (pp. 133–149). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wright, M., Hmieleski, K. M., Siegel, D. S., & Ensley, M. D. (2007b). The role of human capital in technological entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 31(6), 791–806. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2007.00202.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wright, M., & Vanaelst, I. (2009). Introduction. In M. Wright & I. Vanaelst (Eds.), Entrepreneurial teams and new business creation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wright, M., Vohora, A., & Lockett, A. (2004). The formation of high-tech university spinouts: The role of joint ventures and venture capital investors. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 29(3–4), 287–310. doi: 10.1023/b:jott.0000034124.70363.83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wooldridge, J. M. (2010). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  67. Zacharakis, A., Erikson, T., & George, B. (2010). Conflict between the VC and entrepreneur: The entrepreneur’s perspective. Venture Capital, 12(2), 109–126. doi: 10.1080/13691061003771663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zeileis, A., Kleiber, C., & Jackman, S. (2008). Regression models for count data in R. Journal of Statistical Software, 27(8), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zhou, W., & Rosini, E. (2015). Entrepreneurial team diversity and performance: Toward an integrated model. Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 5(1), 31–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zimmerman, M. A. (2008). The influence of top management team heterogeneity on the capital raised through an initial public offering. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 32(3), 391–414. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2008.00233.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zucker, L., & Darby, M. (2001). Capturing technological opportunity via Japan’s star scientists: Evidence from Japanese firms’ biotech patents and products. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 26(1–2), 37–58. doi: 10.1023/a:1007832127813.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IÉSEG School of Management (LEM-CNRS)Paris La DéfenseFrance
  2. 2.Università E-CampusNovedrateItaly
  3. 3.Center of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipUniversità Politecnica delle MarcheAnconaItaly
  4. 4.Department of ManagementUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  5. 5.The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis (RCEA)RiminiItaly

Personalised recommendations