Abstract

The theory of exploration and exploitation is based on the logic of trade-offs and yet empirical research has rarely investigated these trade-offs as manifested between different dimensions of performance. In the context of start-ups, getting acquired is an additional performance dimension previously ignored in the ambidexterity literature. This paper utilizes the recently completed Kauffman Firm Survey data to investigate the relationship between exploration and the profitability, survival, and acquisition likelihood of start-ups simultaneously. A balance-is-best relationship is found for profitability of survived firms and for the acquisition likelihood of high tech firms, while an exploitation focus is found to maximize the survival chances of low and medium tech firms. For low and medium technology start-ups we find evidence of a trade-off between survival likelihood and profitability-given-survival, and for high tech start-ups we find evidence of a differently shaped trade-off between acquisition likelihood and profitability-given-survival.

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