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PhD Defence Franz Simon

External knowledge sourcing from startups: An analysis of the pre-collaboration phase

Franz Simon is a PhD student in the research group Technology Management and Supply (TMS). His supervisor is prof.dr.habil. H. Schiele from the faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS).

Digitalization forces firms in various traditional industries to respond to emerging technological developments and changes in their market environments more than ever. To face these challenges, firms need to constantly explore new technological paths and access knowledge beyond their boundaries. While prior research has primarily studied how firms access knowledge from established suppliers, startups have only recently evolved to an important external source of knowledge. This dissertation focuses on the identification of startups as knowledge providers for corporations and delivers new insights into the implications of corporate-startup collaborations.

This dissertation starts with the introduction of structured search approaches for the identification of startups, which are particularly important since the search for startups requires a radically different approach compared to distinguishing innovative firms within a corporation’s network. A further analysis of search strategies for startups underlines that searching broadly and intensively increases the search success, i.e., the identification of adequate and value creating startups. In addition, one chapter of this thesis develops strategies on how corporations should act to become attractive partners for startups.

Second, two chapters of this work access the implications of sourcing knowledge from startups. It can be empirically proven that startups deliver ideas with higher novelty and customer benefit. However, startup ideas experience constraints concerning their implementation. In addition, the search for startups has positive effects on the organizational capabilities of the searching firm. By continuously screening startup ideas and interacting with entrepreneurial teams, corporations expand their radical innovation capabilities. Consequently, the findings provide evidence that the generation of knowledge is supported by including distant knowledge and interacting with new business partners such as startups.

Overall, this dissertation advances research on external knowledge sourcing. The findings underline the importance of investing time and resources in the search for startups as well as in building relationships based on equality. As a consequence, corporations benefit from truly innovative and novel ideas accompanied by evolving organizational capabilities that allow to develop and implement radically new product ideas.