Scholars have traditionally assumed the establishment and management of university spinoffs are guided by growth and the pursuit of profit. However, few studies have examined the motivations and post-establishment success definitions of entrepreneurs themselves. This paper seeks to contribute to our understanding of the mediating factors of academic entrepreneurship through an in-depth interview-based study of 74 nascent academic entrepreneurs. The results show that academic entrepreneurs define success in a number of complex, interrelated ways including technology diffusion, technology development, financial gain, public service and peer motivations, among others. Furthermore, a large percentage of the respondents have little immediate interest in growth and have instead established their firms to pursue other sources of development funding.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Acs, Z., Audretsch, D., Braunerhjelm, P. & Carlsson, B. (2004). The missing link: The knowledge filter and endogenous growth. Discussion paper, London, Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) (2004/2005). Knowledge Spillover Theory.
Almeida, P., & Kogut, B. (1999). Localization of knowledge and the mobility of engineers in regional networks. Management Science, 45(7), 905–917.
Amit, R., McCrimmon, K., Zietsma, C., & Oesch, J. (2000). Does money matter?: Wealth attainment as the motive for initiating growth-oriented technology ventures. Journal of Business Venturing, 16, 119–143.
Audretsch, D. (1995). Innovation and industry evolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Audretsch, D., & Feldman, M. (1996). R&D spillovers and the geography of innovation. American Economic Review, 86, 630–640.
Audretsch, D., Keilbach, M., & Lehmann, E. (2006). Entrepreneurship and economic growth. London: Oxford University Press.
Baumol, W. (1983). Toward operational models of entrepreneurship. In J. Ronen (Ed.), Entrepreneurship. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Bekkers, R., Gilsing, V., & van der Steen, M. (2006). Determining factors of the effectiveness of IP-based spin-offs: Comparing the Netherlands and the U.S. Journal of Technology Transfer, 31, 545–566.
Bercovitz, J. & Feldman, M. (2008). Academic entrepreneurs: Organizational change and the individual level. Organization Science, 19(1), 69–89.
Birley, S. & Westhead, P. (1994). A taxonomy of business start-up reasons and their impact on firm growth and size. Journal of Business Venturing, 9, 7–31.
Blair, D., & Hitchens, D. (1998). Campus Companies—U.K. and Ireland. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.
Bowen, D., & Hisrich, R. (1986). The female entrepreneur: A career development perspective. Academy of Management Review, 2, 393–407.
Brush, C. (1992). Research on women business owners: Past trends, a new perspective, and future directions. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (Summer), 12, 27–35.
Carter, N., Gartner, W., Shaver, K., Shaver, K., & Gatewood, E. (2003). The career reasons of nascent entrepreneurs. Journal of Business Venturing, 18, 13–39.
Cassar, G. (2007). Money, money, money: A longitudinal investigation of entrepreneur career reasons, growth preferences and achieved growth. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 19.
Chiesa, V., & Piccaluga, A. (2000). Exploitation and diffusion of public research: The case of academic spinoff-off companies in Italy. R&D Management, 30(4), 267–281.
Cliff, J. (1998). Does one size fit all? Exploring the relationships between attitudes towards growth, gender, and business size. Journal of Business Venturing, 13, 523–542.
Columbo, M., Mustar, P., & Wright, M. (2010). Dynamics of science-based entrepreneurship. Journal of Technology Transfer, 35, 1–15.
Cooper, A. (1973). Technical entrepreneurship: What do we know? R&D Management, 3(2).
Cooper, A. (2003). Entrepreneurship: The past, the present, the future. In Z. Acs & D. Audretsch (Eds.), Handbook of entrepreneurship (pp. 21–36). The Netherlands: Kluwer.
Corman, J., Perles, B., & Vancini, P. (1988). Motivational factors influencing high-technology entrepreneurship. Journal of Small Business Management, January.
Davidsson, P. (1989). Entrepreneurship—and after? A study of growth willingness in small firms. Journal of Business Venturing, 4, 211–226.
Davidsson, P. (2004). Researching entrepreneurship. New York: Springer.
Degroof, J. J., & Roberts, E. (2004). Overcoming weak entrepreneurial infrastructure for academic spin-off ventures. Journal of Technology Transfer, 29(3–4), 327–357.
Etzkowitz, H. (2003). Innovation in innovation: The triple helix of university-industry-government relations. Social Science Information, 42(3), 293–337.
Franklin, S., Wright, M., & Lockett, A. (2001). Academic and surrogate entrepreneurs in university spin-out companies. Journal of Technology Transfer, 26(1–2), 127–141.
Friberg, M. (1976). Is the salary the only incentive for work? Sociologisk Forskning, 4, 52–65.
Gartner, W. B. (1988). Who is the entrepreneur? Is the wrong question. American Journal of Small Business, 12, 11–32.
Gartner, W., & Carter, N. (2003). Entrepreneurial behavior and firm organizing processes. In Z. Acs & D. Audretsch (Eds.), Handbook of entrepreneurship (pp. 21–36). The Netherlands: Kluwer.
Gatewood, E., Shaver, K., & Gartner, W. (1995). A longitudinal study of cognitive factors influencing start-up behaviors and success at venture creation. Journal of Business Venturing, 10, 371–391.
Gimeno, J., Folta, T., Cooper, A., & Woo, C. (1997). Survival of the fittest? Entrepreneurial human capital and the persistence of underperforming firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42, 750–783.
Ginn, C., & Sexton, D. (1989). Growth: A vocational choice and psychological preference. Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research, 9, 1–13.
Goldfarb, B., & Henrekson, M. (2003). Bottom-up versus top-down policies towards the commercialization of university intellectual property. Research Policy, 32(4), 639–658.
Grillo, I., & Thurik, R. (2005). Strategies, uncertainty, and performance of small business startups. Small Business Economics, 15(3).
Gundry, L., & Welsch, H. (2001). The ambitious entrepreneur: Growth strategies of women-owned enterprises. Journal of Business Venturing, 16, 453–470.
Harvey, J., Yarkin, K., Lightner, J., & Town, J. (1980). Unsolicited interpretation and recall and interpersonal events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 556–568.
Hayter, C. (2010). The open innovation imperative: Perspectives on success from faculty entrepreneurs. PhD dissertation, George Washington University.
Heirman, A., & Clarysse, B. (2004). How and why do research-based startups differ at founding? A resource-based configurational perspective. Journal of Technology Transfer, 29, 247–268.
Hessels, J., Van Gelderen, M., & Thurik, R. (2008). Entrepreneurial aspirations, motivations, and their drivers. Small Business Economics, 31, 323–339.
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work related values. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.
Jaffe, A. (1989). Real effects of academic research. American Economic Review, 79(5), 957–970.
Jaffe, A., Trajtenberg, M., & Henderson, R. (1993). Geographic localization of knowledge spillovers as evidenced by patent citations. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108(3), 577–598.
Kenney, M., & Goe, W. R. (2003). The role of social embeddedness in professorial entrepreneurship: A comparison of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley and Stanford. Research Policy, 33(5), 691–707.
Kolvereid, L. (1992). Growth aspirations among norwegian entrepreneurs. Journal of Business Venturing, 7, 209–222.
Kolvereid, L. (1996). Prediction of employment status choice intentions, entrepreneurship status choice intentions. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 21, 47–57.
Krabel, S., & Mueller, P. (2009). What drives scientists to start their own company? An empirical investigation of Max Planck society scientists. Research Policy, 38, 947–956.
Kuratko, D., Hornsby, J. & Naffzinger, D. (1997). An examination of Owner’s goals in sustaining entrepreneurship. Journal of Small Business Management, pp. 30–45 January, in Kuratko, D. & Hodgetts, R. Entrepreneurship: Theory, process & practice, 6th edn. South Western division, Thompson Learning, 2004.
Leitch, C., & Harrison, R. (2005). Maximizing the potential of university spin-outs: The development of second-order commercialization activities. R&D Management, 35(3), 257–272.
Link, A., Siegel, D., & Bozeman, B. (2007). An empirical analysis of the propensity of academics to engage in informal university technology transfer. Industrial and Corporate Change, 16(4), 1–15.
Locke, E. (2000). The prime movers. New York: Amacom.
Lockett, A., Manigart, S., Meuleman, M., Desbrieres, P., & Landstrom, H. (2002). The syndication of venture capital investments. In W. D. Bygrave, S. Manigart, C. Mason, G. Meyer, H. Sapienza, & K. Shaver (Eds.), Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research. Waltham, MA: P&R Publications Inc.
Lockett, A., & Wright, M. (2005). Resources, capabilities, risk capital and the creation of university spin-out companies: Technology transfer and universities’ spin-out strategies. Research Policy, 34(7), 1043–1057.
Lowe, R. (2002). Invention, innovation and entrepreneurship: The commercialization of university research by inventor-founded firms. PhD dissertation, University of California at Berkeley.
Lowe, R., & Gonzalez-Brambila, C. (2007). Faculty entrepreneurs and research productivity. Journal of Technology Transfer, 32(3), 173–194.
Markman, G., Phan, P., Balkin, D., & Gianiodis, P. (2004). Entrepreneurship from the ivory tower: Do incentive systems matter? Journal of Technology Transfer 26(3), 233–245.
Martinelli, A., Meyer, M., & von Tunzelmann, N. (2008). Becoming an entrepreneurial university? A case study of knowledge exchange relationships and faculty attitudes in a medium-sized, research-oriented university. Journal of Technology Transfer, 33, 259–283.
Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychology Review, July, 370–396.
Meyer, M. (2003). Academic entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial academics? Research-based ventures and public support mechanisms. R&D Management, 33(2).
Monroy, T., & Folger, R. (1993). A typology of entrepreneurial styles: Beyond economic rationality. Journal of Private Enterprise, 9(2), 64–79.
Moore, D., & Buttner, E. (1997). Women entrepreneurs: Moving beyond the glass ceiling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Morris, M., Miyasaki, N., Watters, C., & Coombes, S. (2006). The dilemma of growth: Understanding venture size choices of women entrepreneurs. Journal of Small Business Management, 44(2), 221–244.
Moskowitz, T., & Vissing-Jorgensen, A. (2002). The returns to entrepreneurial investment: A private equity premium puzzle. American Economic Review, 92(4), 745–778.
Mustar, P. (1997). Spin-off enterprises, How French academics create high-tech companies: conditions for success or failure. Science and Public Policy, 24(1).
O’Gorman, C., Byrne, O., & Pandya, D. (2008). How scientists commercialise new knowledge via entrepreneurship. Journal of Technology Transfer, 33, 23–43.
Patton, M. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed. ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Phan, P., & Siegel, D. (2006). The effectiveness of university technology transfer: Lessons learned. Foundations and Trends in Entrepreneurship, 2(2), 77–144.
Pressman, L. (Ed.). (2002). AUTM Licensing Survey: FY 2001. Northbrook, IL: Association of University Technology Managers.
Reitan, B. (1997). Fostering technical entrepreneurship in research communities: Granting scholarships to would-be entrepreneurs. Technovation, 17(6), 287–296.
Renault, C. S. (2006). Academic capitalism and university incentives for faculty entrepreneurship. Journal of Technology Transfer, 31(2), 227–239.
Reynolds, P., Camp, S., Bygrave, W., Autio, E., & Ha, M. (2001). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2001 Summary Report. Kansas City: Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. www.entreworld.org/gem2001 and www.gemsonsortium.org.
Roberts, E. (1991). Entrepreneurs in high technology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Romer, P. (1986). Increasing returns and long-run growth. Journal of Political Economy, 94, 1002–1037.
Rothaermel, F., Agung, S., & Jiang, L. (2007). University entrepreneurship: A taxonomy of the literature. Industrial and Corporate Change, 16, 691–791.
Rothaermel, F., & Thursby, M. (2005). Incubator firm failure or graduation? The role of university linkage. Research Policy, 34(3), 1076–1090.
Samson, K., & Gurdon, M. (1993). University scientists as entrepreneurs: A special case of technology transfer and high-tech venturing. Technovation, 13(2), 63–71.
Scheinburg, S., & MacMillan, I. (1988). An 11 Country study of motivations to start a business. In B. Kirchhoff, W. Long, W. McMullan, K. Vesper, & W. Wetzel Jr. (Eds.), Frontiers of entrepreneurship research (pp. 669–687). Wellesley, MA: Babson College.
Sexton, D. (1989). Research on women-owned businessess: Current status and future directions. In O. Hangan, C. Rivchun, & D. Sexton (Eds.), Women-owned businesses (pp. 183–193). New York: Praeger.
Shane, S. (2004). Academic entrepreneurship: University spinoffs and wealth creation. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
Shane, S., Kolvereid, L., & Westhead, P. (1991). An exploratory examination of the reasons leading to new firm foundations across country and gender. Journal of Business Venturing, 6, 431–446.
Shane, S., Locke, E., & Collins, C. (2003). Entrepreneurial motivation. Human Resource Management Review, 13, 257–279.
Shane, S., & Stuart, T. (2002). Organizational endowments and the performance of university start-ups. Management Science, 48(1), 154–170.
Siegel, D. S., Waldman, D. A., & Link, A. N. (2003). Assessing the impact of organizational practices on the productivity of university technology transfer offices: An exploratory study. Research Policy, 32(1), 27–48.
Slaughter, S., & Rhoades, G. (2004). Academic capitalism and the new economy: Markets, state and higher education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Solow, R. M. (1956). A contribution to the theory of economic growth. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 70, 65–94.
Starr, J., & Yudkin, M. (1996). Women entrepreneurs: A review of current research. Wellesley, MA: Center for Research on Women.
Storey, D. (1994). Understanding small firms. London: Routledge.
Stuart, T., & Ding, W. (2006). The social structural determinants of academic entrepreneurship: An analysis of University Scientists’ participation in commercial Ventures. American Journal of Sociology, 112(1), 97–144.
Tornatzky, L., Waugaman, P., Casson, L., Crowell, S., Spahr, C., & Wong, F. (1995). Benchmarking best practices for university-industry technology transfer: Working with start-up companies. A Report of the Southern Technology Council. Atlanta: Southern Technology Council.
Utterback, J. (1994). Mastering the dynamics of innovation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Venkataraman, S. (1997). The distinctive domain of entrepreneurship research: An editor’s perspective. In J. Katz & R. Brockhaus (Eds.), Advances in entrepreneurship, firm emergence and growth (Vol. 3, pp. 119–138). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Vohora, A., Wright, M., & Lockett, A. (2004). Critical junctures in the development of university high-tech spin-out companies. Research Policy, 33, 147–175.
Wiklund, J., Davidsson, P., & Delmar, F. (2003). What do they think and feel about growth? An expectancy-value approach to small business managers’ attitudes toward growth. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Spring, 247–270.
Wright, M., Clarysse, B., Lockett, A., & Binks, M. (2006). University spin-out companies and venture capital. Research Policy, 35(4), 481–501.
Zucker, L., Darby, M., & Armstrong, J. (2002). Commercializing knowledge: University science, knowledge capture, and firm performance in biotechnology. Management Science, 48(1), 138–153.
I am grateful to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for their financial support of this research.
About this article
Cite this article
Hayter, C.S. In search of the profit-maximizing actor: motivations and definitions of success from nascent academic entrepreneurs. J Technol Transf 36, 340–352 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-010-9196-1