In this paper, we re-open Stinchcombe’s question of the conditions under which some emerging organizations are more likely than others to survive. We bring the investigation of “the liability of newness” back into the early months of the founding process.

Based on Stinchcombe’s original ideas and various follow-up studies, we construct an analytic framework by defining emerging organizations as resource based, boundary maintaining, and socially constructed systems of human activity. Using the three-part definition of emerging organizations, our framework encompasses multiple aspects of organizational emergence which potentially explain the substantial failure rate of young organizations.

Along the three dimensions of emerging organizations, we further distinguish between what nascent entrepreneurs have available when their efforts begin and what they subsequently accomplish during the organizing process. By analyzing the dynamic process of organizational emergence, we examine the extent to which initial endowments doom emerging organizations’ early life chances and the extent to which subsequent social activities of resource investment, routine construction, and boundary formation moderate the fate of emerging organizations.