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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Of Experience and Enterprise: Careers, Organizations and Entrepreneurship

  • Author(s): Ng, Weiyi
  • Advisor(s): Stuart, Toby E.
  • et al.

This dissertation examines the antecedents of entrepreneurship through the empirical analysis of over 2 million resumes that constitutes a sample of the high technology start-up ecology in the United States. The first chapter characterizes the latent issues surrounding the study of entrepreneurial entry (Chapter 1). I then resolve these issues through the development of a sociological career framework of entrepreneurship in two parts. The first establishes the framework and distinguishes two types of entrepreneurial activity: high potential ventures and common self-employment (Chapter 2). I show that machine learning models applied to the identity claims of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs can successfully classify, characterize and distinguish these types in the tech sector. The two entrepreneur types exhibit diametrically opposing human capital and career based antecedents. In doing so, I demonstrate a necessary de-conflation of entrepreneurial events; the career framework provides a crucial precision in the definition, observation and measurement of the entrepreneurial outcome variable. The second part exemplifies an application of the framework to demonstrate an efficacy in the identification and study of specific sociological mechanisms. Through the introduced apparatus and a prospective sample of the data that represents the graduates of the top 23 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) colleges in the United States, I study the effect of status gain on entrepreneurial entry and success by examining different forms of entrepreneurial activity of the alumni of companies that experience liquidity events: initial public offerings (IPOs) and large scale acquisitions (Chapter 3). I find that upon vicariously experiencing these liquidity events, the alumni are on average 23% more likely to enter into high potential entrepreneurship and 17% less likely to enter into contract self-employment. However, such forms of status gain confer no significant funding advantages to the nascent venture. I conclude by discussing future directions: this dissertation serves as but an introduction to and an advocate for a larger program of research that seeks to clarify and advance the study of entrepreneurship through sociological career theory.

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