This book is the product of a PhD thesis completed between October 1992 and September 1995 in the Department of Geography at the University of Southampton. ‘Why geography?’, you may ask, particularly given that the subject of the research appears, at least at first glance, to be more at home within a business school environment. By way of response I feel that it is important to stress that a thesis on this topic could have been researched and written within the context of any one of a number of academic or practitioner-based disciplines, and that to this extent it provides evidence of the typical interdisciplinary nature of research into small firms and entrepreneurship. Academic commentators in the fields of strategic management, industrial organisation, technology, economics, sociology and geography have contributed to the outcome of this thesis alongside practising venture capitalists, corporate executives and entrepreneurs. Whether their views and opinions were conveyed directly through face-to-face or telephone interviews, through more informal discussions or through their writings, I hope that my attempts to draw together, contrast and compare experiences from such a wide variety of sources have resulted in a rich and accurate insight into a field of inquiry which is becoming increasingly important to many people.
Small firms and entrepreneurship, and also the interrelated topics of company collaboration, networks and industrial districts, are all currently of particular interest to followers of contemporary economic geography. While geography, by definition, concerns itself primarily with a study of space, the inherent spacial dimension of many subject matters means that geographers are found in many places where they perhaps wouldn’t be expected; many people would be surprised to see what is taught on a modern human geography degree course! As an undergraduate in Southampton I was first introduced to the various theoretical schools of thought underpinning the strategic alliance and entrepreneurship subject areas, as well as to the more practical issues concerning the start-up, growth and development of small companies. Attracted to this area, I decided to undertake an undergraduate dissertation looking at the problems faced