Research on boards of directors in high-tech start-ups: An assessment and suggestions for future research
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While entrepreneurship research has undergone drastic changes over the past 40 years, scholars have increasingly recognized that the formation of new high-technology-based firms is a collective action by the founding teams and other people involved (Wright and Vanaelst, 2009). High-tech start-ups are defined as early-stage firms that are one to ten years old, operate in multiple high-tech sectors, and have significant equity investment from multiple professional investors (Burgel and Murray, 2000; Burgel et al., 2004; Garg, 2013). Early-stage high-tech firms are considered to be a significant source of economic growth and innovation (Kortum and Lerner, 2000). High-tech start-ups are also firms in transition as they go through a number of stages of activity and need to develop resources and capabilities in order to bring their innovative products or services to market under highly uncertain and changing conditions. Today, the development and growth of research-based high-tech firms is much emphasized by policy-makers as a way to support innovation and job creation (Steffensen et al., 2000; Wright et al., 2004). The composition and functioning of the entrepreneurial team are often identified as critical determinants of the survival and success of these firms (Cooper and Daily, 1997; Birley and Stockley, 2000; Ensley and Hmieleski, 2005; Clarysse and Moray, 2004; Vanaelst et al., 2006). However, there is often a limited amount of recognition that the entrepreneurial team in these firms often includes both the top management team (TMT) and board members. This is surprising, since the board of directors in high-tech start-ups appears to be more actively involved in the company’s strategic decisions compared to large established companies (Gabrielsson and Huse, 2002). Further, the service role of the outside board seems to be crucial for early-stage high-tech firms in terms of acquiring additional resources through new board members that the TMT lacks (Bjørnåli and Gulbrandsen, 2010; Knockaert and Ucbasaran, 2013). Zhang et al. (2011) even suggest that the outside board members can be seen as an extension of the full-time internal TMT, and all together play a vital role as ‘collective entrepreneurs’ in the early venturing process.