How strategy evolves in entrepreneurial nascent technology firms
Kirtley, Jacqueline B.
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Fundamentally, entrepreneurship is about acting under uncertainty. For entrepreneurial firms willing to bear the risks of developing novel innovations from new technology knowledge, that uncertainty is amplified. To succeed at launching innovations that could bring industry and technology change, these firms need significant resources, time, and technology development, but they are weak, under-resourced, and dependent on funders and partners to survive. Entrepreneurial firms are theorized and advised to be flexible, unencumbered by the organizational inertia that limits their established counterparts and therefore able to adapt. Yet, we understand little about how these firms manage the uncertainties they face. In this dissertation, I explore how and why entrepreneurial firms developing novel technology evolve their strategies and technology products. The research study for this dissertation is a multi-year longitudinal field study of strategy and technology product evolution at seven early stage energy and cleantech hardware firms. In the first paper, I examine when and how entrepreneurial firms decide to make strategic change and when that change constitutes a ‘pivot’. In the second paper, I examine how entrepreneurial technology firms in a dynamic and uncertain context learn from the process of choosing not to change their strategies. Lastly, in the third paper, I examine how these entrepreneurial firms manage the challenges of partnering with established firms to develop their novel technologies. This dissertation contributes to the entrepreneurship, strategy, and technology innovation literatures with a grounded theoretical understanding how early stage technology firms manage uncertainty through strategic change, learning, and interorganizational relationships.