The imprinting effect of initial resources and market strategy on the early growth path of start-Ups
Research-based start-ups (RBSUs) differ in their early growth. Some firms grow very rapidly, while others grow slowly or do not grow at all. In this paper we bring insights in the causes of the diversity in the early growth of RBSUs. To identify some of the key factors that affect growth, we study the initial resource base and the firm’s market strategy. We control for age, size and industry differences. Growth is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon. Therefore, we study three growth measures, namely growth in employees, revenues and total assets. Our multivariate analyses show that raising large amounts of VC is a key driver for early employment and revenue growth. Whilst most RBSUs are founded by pure technical founding teams, we find that R&D experience has no effect on growth. Founding teams with commercial experience, on the other hand, grow significantly more in employees, revenues and total assets. Next, RBSUs, which are internationally oriented from the start, grow significantly faster in terms of revenues and total assets but not in employees. Finally, multivariate analysis indicates that firms that are closer to a market ready product at founding do not grow significantly more in terms of revenues and employees, but firms that are earlier in the product development cycle grow more in total assets during the early growth path. We use in-depth qualitative information to explain and interpret the results and discuss the sustainability of different early growth trajectories. Our findings have important implications for entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers.
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