Spin Doctors vs the Spawn of Capitalism: Who Founds University and Corporate Startups?

Alex Coad*, Ulrich Kaiser, Johan Moritz Kuhn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We compare individuals presently employed either at a university, or at a firm from an R&D-intensive sector, and analyze which of their personal-specific and employer-specific characteristics are related to their choice to leave their present employer for an own startup. Our data set combines the population of Danish employees with their present employers. We focus on persons who at least hold a Bachelor's degree in engineering, sciences and health and track them over 2001-2012. We show that (i) there are overall few differences between the characteristics of university and corporate startup entrepreneurs, (ii) common factors associated with startup activity of both university and corporate employees are education, top management team membership, previous job mobility and being male, (iii) it is primarily human capital-related characteristics that are related to startup choice of university employees while (iv) the characteristics of the present workplace are the foremost factors of entrepreneurial activity by corporate employees.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104347
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number10
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • University startups
  • Corporate startups
  • Founder characteristics
  • Employee retention
  • Human capital

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