Abstract

Explaining how technology entrepreneurs discover opportunities is of immense interest given that innovation is the prime instrument of competition for many firms (Baumol, 2002). However, existing research does not address why some technology entrepreneurs serendipitously discover opportunities whereas and others search and discover opportunities. We argue that these discovery modes are a function of technological entrepreneurs’ human capital and that differences in human capital underpin entrepreneurial discovery. Human capital has been linked to nascent entrepreneurship (Davidsson & Honig, 2003), evaluations of venture capitalists (Dimov & Shepherd, 2005), and number of opportunities identified (Corbett, 2006). Even so, little evidence exists of human capital affecting serendipitous or search-based discovery.

We explain technology entrepreneurial discovery mode via general human capital (i.e., experience depth, experience breadth, formal education). We then explain discovery mode using a specific human capital framework comprised of Shane’s (2000) prior knowledge constructs (i.e., markets, customer problems, ways to serve markets, and technology). We then put forward configurations, or gestalts, of human capital associated with serendipitous and search-based discovery.

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