Research and teaching

Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson

Using a panel of U.S. metropolitan areas from 1993 to 2002, we find that an increase in the local supply of venture capital (VC) positively affects (i) the number of firm starts, (ii) employment, and (iii) aggregate income. Our results remain robust to a wide variety of specifications, including ones that address potential endogeneity in the supply of venture capital. The magnitudes of the effects, moreover, imply that venture capital stimulates the creation of more firms than it directly funds. That result appears consistent with either of two mechanisms: One, would-be entrepreneurs that anticipate a future need for financing more likely start firms when the supply of capital expands. Two, companies funded by venture capital may transfer tacit knowledge to their employees thereby enabling spinoffs, and may encourage both their own employees and others to become entrepreneurs through demonstration effects.

Review of Economics and Statistics, 93 (2011): 338-349

The social attachment to place

January 4th, 2011

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Many theories either implicitly or explicitly assume that individuals readily move to locations that improve their financial well being. Other forces, however, offset these tendencies; for example, people often wish to remain close to family and friends. We introduce a methodology for determining how individuals weight these countervailing forces, and estimate how both financial incentives and social factors influence the probability of geographic mobility in the Danish population from 2002 to 2003. Our results suggest that individuals respond to opportunities for higher pay elsewhere, but that their sensitivity to this factor pales in comparison to their preferences for living near family and friends.

Social Forces, 89 (2010): 633-658

Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson

We find that public research funding and venture capital have a complementary relationship in fostering innovation and the creation of new firms. Based on a panel of metropolitan areas in the United States from 1993 to 2002, we find that the positive relationships between government research grants and the rates of patenting and firm formation in a region become more pronounced as the supply of venture capital in that region increases. Our results remain robust to estimation with an instrumental variable to address potential endogeneity in the provision of venture capital. Consistent with perspectives that emphasize the importance of an innovation ecosystem, our results therefore point to a strong interaction between private financial intermediation and public research funding in promoting entrepreneurship and growth.

Research Policy, 39 (2010): 1348-1360

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Using panel data on the Danish population, we estimated the revealed preferences of scientists and engineers for the places in which they choose to work. Our results indicate that these technical workers exhibit substantial sensitivity to differences in wages but that they have even stronger preferences for living close to family and friends. The magnitude of these preferences, moreover, suggests that the greater geographic mobility of scientists and engineers, relative to the population as a whole, stems from more pronounced variation across regions in the wages that they can expect. These results remain robust to estimation on a sample of individuals who must select new places of work for reasons unrelated to their preferences—those who had been employed at establishments that discontinued operations.

Journal of Urban Economics, 67 (2010): 33-45

The embedded entrepreneur

December 1st, 2009

Michael S. Dahl and Olav Sorenson

Using comprehensive data on the Danish population, this paper examines the determinants of entrepreneurs’ choices of where to locate their newventures. Our findings suggest that entrepreneurs place much more emphasis on being close to family and friends than on regional characteristics that might influence the performance of their ventures when deciding where to locate those businesses. Two factors could explain our findings: On the one hand, entrepreneurs may simply value proximity to family and friends. On the other hand, these relationships may help them to assemble the assets and to recruit the personnel that they need to succeed in their ventures. Our results suggest that the former plays the greater role in entrepreneurs’ location choices.

European Management Review, 6 (2009): 172-181

The case for formal theory

August 7th, 2009

Ron Adner, Laszlo Polos, Michael D. Ryall, and Olav Sorenson

This special topic forum contains seven papers that illustrate many of the ways in which management researchers can use formal tools–mathematical methods, simulation, and formal logic–to develop management research. Here we offer an overview of these methods and their advantages as tools for research.

Academy of Management Review, 34 (2009): 201-208

Bjørn Løvås and Olav Sorenson

We examine how the ability of one actor to gain access to resources controlled by another depends on two factors: (i) the number of mutual acquaintances connecting the prospective lender and borrower and (ii) the scarcity of the resources in question. We argue that the incentives to renege on an agreement grow as the resources being traded become increasingly scarce. Mutual acquaintances, however, dampen these incentives, and therefore become more important to facilitating exchange as demand for the good of interest rises. Our analysis of qualitative and quantitative evidence from a study of senior partners at an international consultancy supports these propositions.

Advances in Strategic Management, 25: 361-389

Olav Sorenson and Toby E. Stuart

Most existing theories of relationship formation imply that actors form highly cohesive ties that aggregate into homogenous clusters, but actual networks also include many “distant” ties between parties that vary on one or more social dimensions. To explain the formation of distant ties, we propose a theory of relationship formation based on the characteristics of “settings,” or the places and times in which actors meet. We posit that organizations form relations with distant partners when they participate in two types of settings: unusually faddish ones and those with limited risks to participants. In an empirical analysis of our thesis in the formation of syndicate relations between U.S. venture capital firms from 1985 to 2007, we find that the probability that geographically and industry distant ties will form between venture capital firms increases with several attributes of the target-company investment setting: (1) the recent popularity of investing in the target firm’s industry and home region, (2) the target company’s maturity, (3) the size of the investment syndicate, and (4) the density of relationships among the other members of the syndicate.

Administrative Science Quarterly, 53 (2008): 266-294

Olav Sorenson and Toby E. Stuart

This paper has two objectives. We begin by contrasting two potential paths for future research in entrepreneurship. One is the establishment of an independent field of research with a clear jurisdiction, a common theoretical canon, and autonomy from related fields. The second is a phenomena-based approach, in which scholars congregate around common interests in empirical phenomena but approach them with distinct disciplinary lenses. After discussing these alternatives and lobbying for the phenomena-based approach, we then review some of the recent, discipline-based research in economic and organizational sociology relevant to entrepreneurship, and identify significant gaps in that literature.

Academy of Management Annals, 2 (2008): 517-543

Toby E. Stuart and Olav Sorenson

Much research suggests that social networks shape the emergence and development of nascent ventures. Scholars have argued that founders’ and firms’ networks influence innovation and the identification of entrepreneurial opportunities, as well as facilitate the mobilization of resources for growth and the harvesting of value from fledgling firms. It is not an exaggeration to claim that existing empirical findings point to the centrality of networks in every aspect of the entrepreneurial process. However, with exceptions so few they may be counted on one hand, this research untenably treats network structures as exogenous—in other words, as if entrepreneurs and enterprises do not pursue valuable connections. In this article, we review the literature on networks in entrepreneurial contexts, argue that it disproportionately focuses on the consequences of networks at the expense of research on their origins, and consider the implications for the literature of the fact that most entrepreneurs and young ventures are strategic in their formation of relations. We then articulate a research agenda composed of five areas of inquiry we consider critical to a better understanding of networks and entrepreneurship.

Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1 (2007): 211-227