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A DFG project examines the secret of enduringly successful business founders

A DFG project examines the secret of enduringly successful business founders

Why do business founders engaged in research succeed in keeping their companies growing? A research team from Passau and Heilbronn searches for answers to this question in a DFG project.

The prevailing opinion among researchers has hitherto been that business founders don’t necessarily make for successful managers. Once achieving a certain size, they should withdraw for the good of the company and hand over the reins to experienced managers.

Studies conducted by the University of Passau and the German Graduate School of Management & Law in Heilbronn come to a different conclusion: according to this research, founders are also crucial to the success of a company in the long term as long as they focus on specific tasks. As part of the DFG research project ‘The originality of entrepreneurs along the life cycle of firms: Understanding the attributes of entrepreneurial decision making’, a research team is studying founder involvement in research and development (R & D) activities.

Inventive founders are more successful

During an initial phase, the economists showed that inventive founders play a crucial role in the innovativeness of their companies. ‘We are now investigating why the commitment of founders in terms of R & D activities is so difficult to replace’, explains Project Director Professor Carolin Häussler, Chair of Organisation, Technology Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of Passau.

The researchers are focusing on a variety of factors. These include the founders’ technical expertise, their ownership share, their managerial responsibility and their previous entrepreneurial experience. In addition, the research team is analysing how the interplay of founder-specific and structural aspects influence the innovativeness of the respective company. Here too, factors such as ownership share, managerial responsibility at the company level and changes in the top management team play a role.

Corporate data in combination with patent data

The researchers are working with data from thousands of German start-ups founded since 1990, taken from a corporate register: the data provide information on the constitution of the companies’ executive board and on KPIs such as revenue growth. The economists are comparing these data with patent data to generate information about the type, quality and quantity of the companies’ inventions. Using the patent data, the researchers can also see whether founders are personally involved in these inventions.

Participants and funding 

Professor Carolin Häussler, Chair of Organisation, Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, is leading the project at the University of Passau. The project’s collaboration partner is Dr Elisabeth Müller, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Firms at the German Graduate School of Management & Law in Heilbronn. 

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project in its second phase for a period of 2.5 years.

Principal Investigator(s) at the University Prof. Dr. Carolin Häussler (Lehrstuhl für Betriebswirtschaftslehre mit Schwerpunkt Organisation, Technologiemanagement und Entrepreneurship)
Project period 01.04.2018 - 30.09.2021
Source of funding
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft > DFG - Sachbeihilfe
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft > DFG - Sachbeihilfe
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