Do strategy choices matter for nascent firms? A study on effectuation and causation impacts on new ventures outcomes

Garonne, Christophe, Davidsson, Per, & Steffens, Paul R. (2010) Do strategy choices matter for nascent firms? A study on effectuation and causation impacts on new ventures outcomes. In Langan-Fox, Janice (Ed.) Proceedings of the 7th AGSE International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, Swinburne University of Technology, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

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Principal Topic :

Nascent entrepreneurship has drawn the attention of scholars in the last few years (Davidsson, 2006, Wagner, 2004). However, most studies have asked why firms are created focussing on questions such as what are the characteristics (Delmar and Davidsson, 2000) and motivations (Carter, Gartner, Shaver & Reynolds, 2004) of nascent entrepreneurs, or what are the success factors in venture creation (Davidsson & Honig; 2003; Delmar and Shane, 2004). In contrast, the question of how companies emerge is still in its infancy. On a theoretical side, effectuation, developed by Sarasvathy (2001) offers one view of the strategies that may be at work during the venture creation process. Causation, the theorized inverse to effectuation, may be described as a rational reasoning method to create a company. After a comprehensive market analysis to discover opportunities, the entrepreneur will select the alternative with the higher expected return and implement it through the use of a business plan. In contrast, effectuation suggests that the future entrepreneur will develop her new venture in a more iterative way by selecting possibilities through flexibility and interaction with the market, affordability of loss of resources and time invested, development of pre-commitments and alliances from stakeholders. Another contrasting point is that causation is ''goal driven'' while an effectual approach is ''mean driven'' (Sarasvathy, 2001) One of the predictions of effectuation theory is effectuation is more likely to be used by entrepreneurs early in the venture creation process (Sarasvathy, 2001). However, this temporal aspect and the impact of the effectuation strategy on the venture outcomes has so far not been systematically and empirically tested on large samples. The reason behind this research gap is twofold. Firstly, few studies collect longitudinal data on emerging ventures at an early enough stage of development to avoid severe survivor bias. Second, the studies that collect such data have not included validated measures of effectuation. The research we are conducting attempts to partially fill this gap by combining an empirical investigation on a large sample of nascent and young firms with the effectuation/causation continuum as a basis (Sarasvathy, 2001). The objectives are to understand the strategies used by the firms during the creation process and measure their impacts on the firm outcomes.

Methodology/Key Propositions :

This study draws its data from the first wave of the CAUSEE project where 28,383 Australian households were randomly contacted by phone using a specific methodology to capture emerging firms (Davidsson, Steffens, Gordon, Reynolds, 2008). This screening led to the identification of 594 nascent ventures (i.e., firms that are not operating yet) and 514 young firms (i.e., firms that have started operating from 2004) that were willing to participate in the study. Comprehensive phone interviews were conducted with these 1108 ventures. In a likewise comprehensive follow-up 12 months later, 80% of the eligible cases completed the interview. The questionnaire contains specific sections designed to distinguish effectual and causal processes, innovation, gestation activities, business idea changes and ventures outcomes. The effectuation questions are based on the components of effectuation strategy as described by Sarasvathy (2001) namely: flexibility, affordable loss and pre-commitment from stakeholders. Results from two rounds of pre-testing informed the design of the instrument included in the main survey. The first two waves of data have will be used to test and compare the use of effectuation in the venture creation process. To increase the robustness of the results, temporal use of effectuation will be tested both directly and indirectly.

  1. By comparing the use of effectuation in nascent and young firms from wave 1 to 2, we will be able to find out how effectuation is affected by time over a 12-month duration and if the stage of venture development has an impact on its use. 2. By comparing nascent ventures early in the creation process versus nascent ventures late in the creation process. Early versus late can be determined with the help of time-stamped gestation activity questions included in the survey. This will help us to determine the change on a small time scale during the creation phase of the venture. 3. By comparing nascent firms to young (already operational) firms. 4. By comparing young firms becoming operational in 2006 with those first becoming operational in 2004.

Results and Implications :

Wave 1 and 2 data have been completed and wave 2 is currently being checked and 'cleaned'. Analysis work will commence in September, 2009. This paper is expected to contribute to the body of knowledge on effectuation by measuring quantitatively its use and impact on nascent and young firms activities at different stages of their development. In addition, this study will also increase the understanding of the venture creation process by comparing over time nascent and young firms from a large sample of randomly selected ventures. We acknowledge the results from this study will be preliminary and will have to be interpreted with caution as the changes identified may be due to several factors and may not only be attributed to the use/not use of effectuation. Meanwhile, we believe that this study is important to the field of entrepreneurship as it provides some much needed insights on the processes used by nascent and young firms during their creation and early operating stages.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 32166
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Strategy Choices, Nascent Firms, New Ventures Outcomes
ISBN: 9780980332865
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Entrepreneurship (150304)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Management
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 13 May 2010 04:34
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 14:22

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