What Convinces an Entrepreneur to Become an Entrepreneur?

It’s not enough to want to become an entrepreneur, according to new research; the context has to be just right for a startup to become a reality. Other people and organizations significantly influence whether people do or do not act on their intentions to create new ventures. It’s not a decision made in a bubble.

In “How entrepreneurial intentions influence entrepreneurial career choices: The moderating influence of social context,” Johan Wiklund, Al Berg Chair in Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, and his co-authors, Azzurra Meoli (University of Bologna), Riccardo Fini (University of Bologna) and Maurizio Sobrero (University of Bologna), examine how a potential entrepreneur’s social context influences whether they start a business. They use social cognitive career theory to examine the relationship between entrepreneurial intention and new venture creation. In other words, what makes someone act on their entrepreneurial intentions?

“We find that other people and relevant organizations have the most positive influence on whether someone takes action to create a startup,” says Wiklund.

He adds that the study provides evidence that universities play a key role in helping translate intentions into entrepreneurial career choices. Universities need to create favorable conditions for entrepreneurship, including supporting networking with students, alumni and academic entrepreneurs to strengthen the venture creation process. This is especially important for universities without a supportive community for entrepreneurial endeavors.

“At Syracuse University, for example, our entrepreneurship majors gain practical experience by connecting with the resources and outreach programs through the Whitman School’s Couri Hatchery and the Blackstone LaunchPad,” says Wiklund. “These student-centered, supportive business incubators help student business startups reach independence through mentorship and professional resources, thereby translating students’ intentions into new ventures.”

The study is forthcoming in the Journal of Business Venturing.

Learn more about research being completed by the faculty at Whitman.