Giuseppe Criaco (2016)

Founding conditions and the survival of new firms: An imprinting perspective on founders, organizational members and external environments

New firms are important sources of new employment, economic growth and innovation. Yet, a large portion of them do not manage to survive their first years of existence. This is often linked to their initial lack of capabilities, resources, routines and legitimacy. Certain favorable conditions at founding may allow new firms to partially overcome these initial shortcomings, and help them survive. For instance, organizational members’ prior experience may provide knowledge and skills to the new firm. However, it may also act as a constraint. It can lead new firms to follow a prescribed way of doing things which may ultimately threaten their survival. Similarly, certain unfavorable conditions of the external environment at founding may paradoxically offer a fertile ground for new firms to nurture their survival. Thus, whether some founding conditions are good or bad for new firms is still an unanswered question.

Building on imprinting theory, this dissertation investigates how different founding conditions affect the survival of new firms. At the organizational level, I study founders’ prior working experience in an incumbent family firm, organizational members’ prior shared international experience and prior industry experience, and focus respectively on three types of new firms: entrepreneurial spawns, international new ventures and high/mid-high tech new firms. I use a matched employer-employee dataset to test the effect of different types of prior experience on new firm survival. At the environment level, I propose how population density of similar organizational forms and the mortality of generalist organizations at founding may affect the survival of new family firms.