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The entrepreneurial logic of startup software development: A study of 40 software startups

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Abstract

Context

Software startups are an essential source of innovation and software-intensive products. The need to understand product development in startups and to provide relevant support are highlighted in software research. While state-of-the-art literature reveals how startups develop their software, the reasons why they adopt these activities are underexplored.

Objective

This study investigates the tactics behind software engineering (SE) activities by analyzing key engineering events during startup journeys. We explore how entrepreneurial mindsets may be associated with SE knowledge areas and with each startup case.

Method

Our theoretical foundation is based on causation and effectuation models. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 40 software startups. We used two-round open coding and thematic analysis to describe and identify entrepreneurial software development patterns. Additionally, we calculated an effectuation index for each startup case.

Results

We identified 621 events merged into 32 codes of entrepreneurial logic in SE from the sample. We found a systemic occurrence of the logic in all areas of SE activities. Minimum Viable Product (MVP), Technical Debt (TD), and Customer Involvement (CI) tend to be associated with effectual logic, while testing activities at different levels are associated with causal logic. The effectuation index revealed that startups are either effectuation-driven or mixed-logics-driven.

Conclusions

Software startups fall into two types that differentiate between how traditional SE approaches may apply to them. Effectuation seems the most relevant and essential model for explaining and developing suitable SE practices for software startups.

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  1. https://www.qsrinternational.com/nvivo-qualitative-data-analysis-software/home

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Nguyen-Duc, A., Kemell, KK. & Abrahamsson, P. The entrepreneurial logic of startup software development: A study of 40 software startups. Empir Software Eng 26, 91 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10664-021-09987-z

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