This thesis has been created in order to understand how startups learn from external knowledge. In theory this benefits research on absorptive capacity while in practice this helps pracitioneer to validate their startup and find product-market-fit.
The structure of the theoretical framework follows the following agenda. It starts with the special characteristics of startups, followed by an in depth analysis of the absorptive capacity concept in the context of startups. The research is using the research from Todorova & Durisin (2007) and his model of absorptive capacity.
16 out of the initial 89 relevant and contacted B2B start-ups participated in a semi-structured interview between the end of July 2014 and mid of September 2014, with an average duration of 59 minutes. The interviewed contacts were 11 interviewees with the role of a chief executive officer (CEO), two chief marketing officers (CMO) and three chief technical officers (CTO).
Research focused on the early absorptive capacity components, namely recognize the value and acquire external knowledge. The next chart gives an overview of contextual aspects for these dimensions, for specific dimensions of the components and on routines that had to be investigated together.
In contrast to the established concept of Todorova & Durisin (2007) interviewees highlighted the dimension of connection and access to external knowledge in B2B startups strongly. This is represented in the following chart addressing the early absorptive capacity in B2B start-ups.
In conclusion, the interviewed entrepreneurs frequently stated the importance of external knowledge in addressing entrepreneurial challenges, especially with regard to important knowledge about the market. With the findings and the identified central themes, actors in the start-up ecosystem have a framework to reflect on how they learn from external knowledge and how they can improve their recognition and acquisition of external knowledge.
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