How do attitudes of habitual high-technology entrepreneurs to early-stage failure differ in Silicon Valley, Cambridge and Munich?
Entrepreneurs develop new technology ventures in uncertain conditions with unproven technologies and limited resources. The majority of such ventures fail, yet entrepreneurship is regarded as a national (and regional) engine for economic growth. This thesis aims to examine entrepreneurs’ attitudes to failure in order to reveal insight on how entrepreneurs learn and how they identify subsequent opportunities, and investigate possible regional differences in such attitudes and entrepreneurial responses. There is much literature on entrepreneurial failure but relatively little that is focused on attitudes to failure, the high-technology industry, or international comparisons. This thesis examines how entrepreneurs’ attitudes to failure in early-stage technology companies differ in the USA (Silicon Valley), UK (Cambridge) and Germany (Munich), and implications for entrepreneurial learning and opportunity identification in these regions. Interviews with habitual entrepreneurs explore their experiences of failed ventures, using a methodology from qualitative psychology - Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) - for the gathering and analysis of data to reveal emergent trends. This analysis is then used to compare attitudes to failure within and between each region, and a preliminary conceptual framework is proposed for analyzing future experiences of entrepreneurial failure. Findings from this idiographic study suggest that although each entrepreneur’s experience of and attitudes to failure is unique, there are more commonalities than differences between regions. Furthermore, these findings reveal the importance of the use of language and narrative in the analysis of such accounts. In addition, the results allow reflection on the appropriateness and limitations of methodologies such as IPA for this subject. This thesis contributes to theory by examining ‘effectuation’ as a way to understand these experiences, and discussing the impact of findings in relation to attribution theory, prospect theory and real-options theory. This thesis contributes to practice by augmenting existing knowledge of entrepreneurial failure through the comparative (regional) approach and the industry-specific (high-technology) focus. It may also improve the preparedness of new practitioners and entrepreneurs, with positive implications for future entrepreneurial success.