Abstract

The generative mechanisms that underlie the creation and development of high performance new ventures are of primary interest to entrepreneurship scholars (Davidsson and Delmar, 2006; Reynolds, 2007). These ventures are rare, yet have a disproportionately large influence on the environment (Frid and Wyman, 2010). Studies reveal that outcomes in a complex system occur at a size and frequency that are distributed according to a power, or scaling law – a downward sloping straight line when plotted on log-log axes (Simon, 1968; Andriani and McKelvey, 2009). To explain the emergence of power-laws, scholars call for a theory that is scale-free – where the explanation for outcomes at one level of analysis also explains outcomes at subsequent and proceeding levels (Boisot and McKelvey, 2009). What mechanisms cause these extreme outcomes? Anderson (1999) suggests that regular patterns of outcomes (i.e., power-laws) are the result of contrasting decisionrules among the agents in the system; these rules are recursive behaviors which are self-regulated according to an individual’s goals and expectations. We investigate these expectations through the lens of regulatory focus theory, which identify two orientations toward goal pursuit: prevention and promotion (Higgins, 1997). Promotion-focused individuals are intrinsically motivated by their need for achievement and growth, and eagerly strive for maximal outcomes. Preventionfocused individuals are extrinsically motivated by their safety and security needs, and vigilantly pursue incremental improvements (Higgins and Spiegel, 2004). I hypothesize that the foci create a distinctive dynamic which influence a founder’s search for and acquisition of different types of resources – human, social, intellectual, and financial capital; these foci represent future expectations for growth and have similar influence at subsequent levels of analysis.

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