Abstract

This paper explores whether and to what extent the ‘imprint’ left by firm founders continues to impact firms as they enter maturity. It is widely accepted that founders’ human capital ‘imprints’ on the structures, routines and practices of organisations, instituting path-dependent ways of working that subsequently impact on performance (Baron et al 1996, Heirman and Clarysse 2005; Bryant 2012). At the same time, entrepreneurs’ skills and experience have been found to impact positively on the growth and survival of firms (Colombo and Grilli 2005, 2010). As organisations change over time, older routines and structures may be changed, diluting the firm’s initial imprinted characteristics. This relationship has not been explored in detail in the literature, and this paper fills this gap by linking the entrepreneurial human capital literature with the imprinting hypotheses and examining these over the long term. In line with imprinting theory, we hypothesise that founders’ initial human capital (as manifested in education, work experience, and overseas experience) continues to impact long-run growth as firms reach maturity.

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