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Authors – E16 – Antje Fiedler – Developing venture opportunities amidst rivalry: entrepreneurs’ backgrounds and the governing role of maintaining confidence

This qualitative, longitudinal study of 12 innovative young New Zealand ventures investigates how individual entrepreneurs develop their venture opportunity amidst emerging rivalry. Two phases are identified: the pursuit of the initial opportunity, and developing it under rivalry. Adopting a sensemaking perspective and a social understanding of rivalry, we explain how entrepreneurs’ backgrounds impact opportunity confidence and the construction of rivalry, and reveal three main pathways whereby entrepreneurs develop their venture. First, entrepreneurs with neither start-up experience nor industry knowledge construct rivalry as threatening and narrow their network as opportunity confidence declines. Second, entrepreneurs with industry knowledge construct emerging rivalry as a challenge and strengthen within-industry ties to meet it. Third, entrepreneurs with serial start-up experience remain unfazed by rivalry and may abandon existing networks in favour for new networks. Comparing pathways, the paper makes two main contributions. First, it illustrates a link between entrepreneurs’ backgrounds and the construction of rivalry. This construction impacts opportunity confidence. Second, the paper suggests that such changes in opportunity confidence guide decisions about how to embed the venture into social context. Overall, the paper contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms whereby entrepreneurial backgrounds influence developing venture opportunities in competitive settings.

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