Small Business Economics

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 407–423 | Cite as

Complementary or compensatory? A contingency perspective on how entrepreneurs’ human and social capital interact in shaping start-up progress

  • Thorsten Semrau
  • Christian Hopp


Entrepreneurs can profit from both their human and social capital. However, research on how the two types of capital interact in shaping relevant outcomes has produced inconclusive results. Attempting to explain the inconsistencies in previous findings, we suggest that the relationship between entrepreneurs’ human and social capital is neither fundamentally complementary nor fundamentally compensatory; instead, the nature of this relationship is contingent on the type of support derived from the network. Our analyses, based on 474 solo nascent entrepreneurs from the PSED II, support our reasoning. While we find nascent entrepreneurs’ human capital and their financial social capital to positively interact in shaping start-up progress, we observe a negative interaction between nascent entrepreneurs’ human capital and their informational social capital. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.


Entrepreneurship Nascent entrepreneurs Start-up progress Human capital Social capital Interaction Contingency perspective 

JEL Classifications

M13 L26 



Earlier versions of this manuscript were presented at the 17th Annual Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Conference 2013 in Koblenz, Germany, and at the 74th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2014 in Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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