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How do Start-ups Recognize the Value of External Knowledge and Acquire it? A Study on Absorptive Capacity in B2B Start-ups

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 following charts give you a very short overview of the thesis. The full thesis can be downloaded here. Please get back to me with any questions and feedback.

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.

Theoretical framework absorptive capacity of B2B startups

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.

If you want to learn more, get in touch.

Special thanks for the supervision, support, criticism and feedback to:
Dr. Rainer Harms | Dr. ir. Sandor Löwik | Dr. Annika Lorenz


Author: Christoph Baier

Christoph Baier matches Startups & innovative Companies for Cooperation & Open Innovation. He is Managing Director of Ambi-Vation and Co-Founder of founderio. His focus is on (Industrial) Internet of Things, CleanTech and Big Data and shares insights into the cooperation of startups and companies as a speaker or interview partner. Prior to that he studied Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin, wrote his master thesis about the learning capability of B2B startups and the cooperation with external partners. During his studies he cofounded START Berlin and is now an alumni.

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