Research on emerging industries implicates institutional entrepreneurship – the ongoing efforts to build new industries and infrastructures. While several conferences have been held on the intersection of entrepreneurship and institutions, a conceptual problem remains. Institutions are described in the literature as stable, enduring features of life, and as such, they are resistant to change. As well, institutions are constraining on their members; in other words, actors (individuals and organizations) are constructions of the very institutions to which they belong – they are defined and enabled by them. If this is so, how do actors gain the ability to escape, either partially or fully, from their institutional environment in order to generate change to that same institutional environment?

While several studies have sought to explain institutional entrepreneurship (and organizational entrepreneurship more broadly) as arising from social upheaval, social skill, social movements, or other such phenomena, the end result of these studies has been the unsatisfactory imposition of institutionally unconstrained actors.

The present research is a qualitative empirical study on the emergence of the U.S. field of hedge fund management companies. This research seeks to locate the specific actors involved in creating the industry, and those involved in shaping the institutions of the industry as it exists today. More specifically, this research seeks to understand the backgrounds and activities of these specific actors in order to uncover the reasons they were able to ‘partially escape’ the confines of the institutions that defined them.