Sub-theme 26: Social capital and entrepreneurial ventures

M. Tina Dacin, Queens's University, Canada
Tom Elfring, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Indre Maurer, University of Cologne, Germany

Call for Papers

This sub-theme intends to take a close and differentiated look on the role of social capital for entrepreneurial ventures. Entrepreneurial ventures provide a particularly advantageous context for exploring the general theme of the 25th EGOS colloquium. They present the locus where creativity and innovation take place with respect to both the way entrepreneurs organize their work and the output they produce. However, the great majority of these ventures do not go for it alone. They are highly embedded, which creates opportunities for entrepreneurial action, but also constraints behavior (Dacin, Ventresca and Beal, 1999).

Entrepreneurial ventures engage in inter-personal and inter-organizational ties – commonly referred to as social capital – to mobilize knowledge, resources and ideas. The importance of social capital for the founding, survival and growth of entrepreneurial ventures is widely recognized. However, research on the antecedents and consequences of social capital faces a number of important challenges. We know very little about the formation and dynamics of social capital. We are interested to see how social relationships form and develop over time and for what reasons. Next to these network development issues are the consequences of particular social capital configurations. How do cognitive, relational and structural dimensions of entrepreneurial ventures’ social capital affect performance? The issue here is how networking and relationships can add value to the ability of entrepreneurial ventures to create wealth.

We would like to bring together researchers from all over the world in order to exchange ideas on the question of how, when and under what conditions social capital forms, develops and facilitates wealth creation. Especially, we invite papers that explore how social capital formation, development and effects on the performance of entrepreneurial ventures are contingent upon other key constructs such as the environment, competitive strategy, and internal resources and capabilities of the firm (Ahuja, 2000; Lee, Lee and Pennings, 2003; Rowley, Behrens and Krackhardt, 2000).


The emerging literature on the network paradigm in entrepreneurship research (Hoang and Antoncic, 2003; Greve and Salaff, 2003) generally concludes that network relationships may present (social) capital that provides many benefits such as trust building, sharing of information, and engaging in joint problem solving. Firms with social capital have a higher survival rate in competitive environments and perform at higher levels (Batjargal, 2003). However, it has also become clear that networks are not always beneficial and that participation in networks can have unintended negative consequences. More networking is not necessarily better; networks have also their dark sides (Gargiulo and Benassi, 1999; Lechner, Dowling and Welpe, 2005). Particular network configurations may have detrimental effects on performance as a result of overembeddedness (Uzzi, 1997) and cognitive 'lock-in' (Maurer and Ebers, 2006). The key challenge is determining which ties matter and when they matter (Gulati and Higgens, 2003). In some studies the beneficial effects of a dense network structure are found, while others stress the positive effects of a sparse networks with structural holes on performance (Burt, 1992; McEvily and Zaheer, 1999). Similarly, the debate on what combination of weak and strong ties is most beneficial has not yet been resolved (Elfring and Hulsink, 2007; Jack, 2005). Finally, the strength of ties and the structure of the network have an impact on organizational performance, however, increasingly scholars find evidence that what flows through the network ties, in other words the content of the ties, is of importance as well (Podolny and Baron, 1997; Rodan and Galunic, 2004). Thus, more research is needed to understand when social capital produces higher performance and how particular forms of overembeddedness may be reduced in order to avoid negative consequences.

This sub-theme will contribute to the above discussion by exploring new perspectives on the question of how, when, and under what conditions social capital develops and in what way it matters for both opportunity and advantage seeking actions by entrepreneurial ventures. We invite participants to study relevant questions in many different contexts to identify how network benefits are contingent on the fit between a particular network configuration (including issues such as levels of analysis (Ibarra, Kilduff and Tsai, 2005) and the organizational context. We particularly invite contributions that focus on one or more of the following issues:

  • How does social capital develop over time and what drives this development?
  • What fosters and what inhibits the formation of social capital in entrepreneurial ventures?
  • How do entrepreneurial ventures establish and cultivate network relations with a diverse set of external partners that have differing aims and backgrounds (e.g. venture capitalists, established firms, research institutions)?
  • How do networks, institutional change and entrepreneurial processes interact?
  • When and how does the 'dark side' (e.g. overembeddedness, cognitive lock-in) of social capital affect entrepreneurial ventures?

In exploring the issues indicated above, and possibly others, the sub-theme is open to any method that can be fruitfully applied. The sub-theme intends to allow researchers to better assess the potential and limitations of the social capital concept by providing a setting for constructive dialogue among different researchers and research approaches.

M. Tina Dacin 
Tom Elfring 
Indre Maurer