Academic journal article New England Journal of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Behavior during Industry Emergence: An Unconventional Study of Discovery and Creation in the Early PC Industry

Academic journal article New England Journal of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Behavior during Industry Emergence: An Unconventional Study of Discovery and Creation in the Early PC Industry

Article excerpt

Entrepreneurial behavior is "risky business" under any condition, but especially during an industry's formative years when there are few precedents for the kinds of activities in which enterprising actors want to engage (Sine, Haveman, & Tolbert, 2005). Nevertheless, entirely new industries emerge successfully, often as a direct result of human agency (Garud & Karnoe, 2003). Studies of entrepreneurial behavior have tended to concentrate on relatively mature industries where its dynamics may differ (Mezias & Kuperman, 2001), resulting in "the persistence of major gaps in our understanding" of the phenomenon (Forbes & Kirsch, 2011). This lack of studies on entrepreneurial behavior in emergent industries is a notable omission. Not only is entrepreneurial behavior an important research topic in its own right, but events and activities during this time also tend to have a profound impact on an industry's subsequent development (Aldrich & Reuf, 2006). In our study, we begin to redress this research gap. We extend prior research and empirically apply discovery and creation perspectives to study entrepreneurial behavior during industry emergence through a narrative analysis of a 1999 made-for-TY film, Pirates of Silicon Valley (henceforth PS V), which documents the activities of a variety of actors involved in the emergence of the personal computer (PC) industry (Leonard, 1999).

At present, the literature presents two perspectives-discover}7 and creation-that explicitly address the role of agency and action in entrepreneurship (Alvarez & Barney, 2007). For discover}7 theorists, alert actors identify hitherto unperceived discrepancies that can be readily rectified (Kirzner, 1997; Shane, 2003). For creation theorists, imaginative actors create new artifacts (Mathews, 2010; Sarasvathy, 2001). In metaphorical terms, discover}7 is about "searching the brushy woods for a choice of path," while creation involves constructing new paths (FIjorth & Johannisson, 2008: 343). For the most part, these two theoretical perspectives have been considered opposed to each other in the prior literature. Despite the increasing popularity of discovery and creation approaches in entrepreneurship (Edelman & Yli-Renko, 2010; Vaghely & Julien, 2010), these two perspectives have not been explicitly used to provide insights into entrepreneurial behavior in emergent industry contexts (Bird & Schjoedt, 2009). We therefore apply these perspectives, with the goal of comparing and contrasting them to advance our understanding of entrepreneurial behavior under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity (Alvarez & Barney, 2010).

The film PSV is based on careful research that involved digging through "reams of documents dating back to the 1970s," reading "all available books about those involved" in the process, combing through old magazine pieces written as events were unfolding, and viewing "miles of film and video footage" related to the main characters (Huff, 1999). Steve Wozniak, a key figure in the development of Silicon Valley and a co-founder of Apple Inc., provided an industry insider endorsement of the film (Korsgaard & Neergaard, 2011) when he declared that it "pretty much reflected the events as they happened" (Wozniak, 2000). This is not to say that PSIf like other entrepreneurship stories, may not take some artistic license, substituting-in Gartner's words (2007: 614)-"unknowns in the knowledge of specific 'facts as given' with 'facts as made.'" It nevertheless serves as a rich source of information to generate insights into entrepreneurial behavior (Gartner, 2010a). Ahl and Czarniawska (2010: 196) argue that even if an entrepreneurship story is not completely authentic, it can still advance the study of entrepreneurial behavior as long as "it is interesting to analyze."

In the present study, we deploy discovery and creation theories to cast new light on industry emergence using PSV as a key source of information about the formative years of the PC industry. …

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