Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Emerging Market Startups Engage Silicon Valley: Cases from Central and Eastern Europe

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Emerging Market Startups Engage Silicon Valley: Cases from Central and Eastern Europe

Article excerpt


Global competition between innovation-based companies is mounting. To succeed in world markets, companies in both developed and emerging markets must continually strengthen their capacity for innovationbroadly conceived as the creation and adoption of new technologies, processes, and business models. While the United States relies primarily on the private sector to drive innovation, many European countries have launched public sector programs (funded by national governments and the European Union) to bolster the innovation-related capabilities of globally active companies.

This article analyzes the results of one such program dedicated to strengthening the global competitiveness of startup companies headquartered in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Launched in 2013, the Polish Silicon Bridge is a partnership between the Government of Poland and the Silicon Valley Acceleration Center aimed at hastening the entry of high-potential Polish startups in the United States and global markets.

The Polish Silicon Bridge is distinctive among programs designed to strengthen the global competitiveness of early stage emerging market companies. A number of emerging markets have created locally based incubators and accelerators to support domestic startups: e.g., Egypt (Mrkaj ic, 2017), Kosovo (Mulolli, Islami, & Skenderi, 2017), Nigeria (Iyortsuun, 2017), Russia (Rogova, 2014). Other emerging markets have launched programs that enlist foreign-based startups to take up residencies in local incubators/accelerators (e.g., Santiago-based Start-Up Chile).

By contrast, this article focuses on the experiences of emerging market startups embedded in a developed market economy with an established innovation ecosystem. In the case of Silicon Valley, the Polish startups featured in our study were placed in a region renowned for its concentration of talent, technology, capital, global connections, and entrepreneurial energy.

We examine the Silicon Valley experiences of 11 Polish technology startups. Through surveys and telephonic interviews, we evaluate the impact of the Polish Silicon Bridge on the business development of participating firms. Our investigation focuses on the following questions:

* What benefits did Polish startups derive from their participation in the Silicon Valley program?

* How did the program influence the business strategies of participating companies?

* To what degree and in what ways did the Silicon Valley program strengthen the innovation capacity of Polish startups?

* To what extent did the program prepare Polish startups for entry into the United States and global markets?

* What does the Polish Silicon Bridge case suggest about the utility of international bridge organizations for accelerating global startups?

Drawing on the results of our empirical analysis, we propose a model to speed the integration of emerging market startups into global innovation ecosystems. In this way, our research provides guidance on how the best startup companies in the CEE region and other emerging markets can become citizens of world-class hubs such as Silicon Valley.

The article is organized as follows. We begin by explaining the rationale of our selection of Poland, whose national economic trajectory (strong GDP growth performance but low innovation capacity) renders the country a suitable case for a study of international bridge organizations. We review recent scholarly work on the challenges and opportunities facing emerging market companies seeking to enter global markets. We then address the specific problem of innovation-led growth in Central and Eastern Europe. We examine the role of international bridge organizations, noting the rising visibility of that organizational form in Silicon Valley. We proceed with our empirical analysis, reporting the results of our investigation of the experiences of Polish startups in Silicon Valley. We discuss the lessons of the Polish Silicon Bridge for enterprise development policies, international partnerships, and innovation building programs in the CEE region. …

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