Entrepreneurship as Growth; Growth as Entrepreneurship
Davidsson, Per, Delmar, Frederic, & Wiklund, Johan (2002) Entrepreneurship as Growth; Growth as Entrepreneurship. In Hitt, M.A., Ireland, R.D., Camp, S.M., & Sexton, D.L. (Eds.) Strategic Entrepreneurship: Creating a New Integrated Mindset. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, U.K.
Business growth has become a major theme in the rapidly expanding field of entrepreneurship research. Entrepreneurship researchers are not alone, however, in showing an interest in business growth. Therefore, there is reason to ask whether and under what conditions the study of growth really contributes to our understanding of entrepreneurial processes. Likewise, there is reason to ask whether there are particular aspects of business growth that fall naturally within the domain of entrepreneurship, and which are at the same time given only cursory treatment within other lines of research.
On the basis of empirically informed conceptual reasoning, we argue that setting the term ‘entrepreneurship’ equal to ‘start-up of a new, independent business’ reduces its empirical content so that it does not fully reflect contemporary theoretical definitions of entrepreneurship. At the same time, new activities that would satisfy some contemporary definitions of entrepreneurship are no doubt undertaken within existing organizations, adding to their size. This, then, would be entrepreneurship manifesting itself as growth.
If entrepreneurship is (sometimes) growth it follows that growth must (sometimes) be a reflection of entrepreneurship. We argue that early growth and organic growth are more likely than later growth and acquisition growth to satisfy criteria set by definitions of entrepreneurship. This suggests that growth may be a reasonable indicator of entrepreneurship for young and small firms, but not for old and large ones. Thus, we argue that specific types of firm growth constitute a legitimate area of interest within entrepreneurship research. This is an interest that is shared by strategic management research, pointing at a potential arena for fruitful collaboration. For entrepreneurship researchers to also make more of a unique contribution we suggest they should consider studying the growth of the new economic activity itself, whether organized as an independent start-up or as a new internal venture, and irrespective of changes over time as regards with what organizations and individuals the activity is associated. Although conducting such studies is challenging we argue that it is by studying the growth of new economic activities that entrepreneurship researchers can make a unique contribution to research on business growth.
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