Students and spinouts: How student entrepreneurs contribute to university spinout companies

Nicklas Jarnel & Oliver Hvidt

Student thesis: Master thesis


This study concerns the contribution of students in the efforts to commercialize university research through so-called university spinout companies. Seven spinout companies that have been driven fully or partly by student entrepreneurs are studied. By applying the findings of prior spinout research, the resource-based view framework and effectuation theory to the data, the students’ contributions in terms of entrepreneurial resources and practices are analyzed, resulting in several surprising findings. Before introducing the primary data, numerous issues are established through a review of existing literature on university spinouts. By combining the VRIO-model of the resource-based view with an effectual perspective, the model is revised take a starting point in organizational ability to learn. By applying this revised model to current spinout research, the study identifies six common resource gaps among university spinout companies. The study subsequently proceeds to the primary data analysis, based mainly on interviews with 14 respondents, 10 of which are student entrepreneurs. To examine the entrepreneurial practice of the respondents, the effectual mode of decision making is established as a “best practice”. Analysis of the primary data through the four dimensions of effectuation reveals that half of the student entrepreneurs relied primarily on effectual logic. This indicates that the relationship between entrepreneurial experience and use of effectuation established by prior research is not fixed and that other, more efficient means of adopting entrepreneurial best practice might exist. The resources and development of the cases are then examined, revealing that most of the students were successful in filling most or all of the common resource gaps at the early stages of development. This is particularly interesting because employing student entrepreneurs are more likely to be within the means of the spinout at these stages, compared to alternative solutions explored by prior research. However, the nature of some resource gaps shifted at a certain stage of development, resulting in gaps related to industry experience, that the student entrepreneurs were mostlyunable to fill. The shift appears to be caused by changes in the type of stakeholder commitment required at the different stages. This had a severe negative impact on the spinouts that were not able to attract the required experienced business resources in time. In spinouts that were able to attract more experienced resources, the student entrepreneurs continued to play key roles in other areas. The results of the study indicate that students are an undervalued and underused resource for spinouts and that their contributions are particularly valuable at specific early stages of development.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages153