I completed my doctoral studies at Johannes Kepler University Linz in July. The hard work in the last five years paid off, my cumulative dissertation, titled „Cultural Entrepreneurship: Making Audiences Attend, Understand, and Value“ is a witness to that. My supervisors of the dissertation were Robert Bauer (JKU Linz) and Michael Lounsbury (University of Alberta); Johann Füller (Universität of Innsbruck) served as the third examiner of my defense.
Cultural entrepreneurship has two meanings: first, it is generally associated with entrepreneurship in the creative industries, and second, it refers to a sociologically-grounded concept within management research seeking to shed light on the socio-cultural dynamics of entrepreneurial efforts (see Lounsbury and Glynn, 2001). I situate my dissertation in the latter sense.
The starting point of my dissertation is that a functioning product or service is not sufficient to establish a new venture in the marketplace. Why? New ventures suffer from the liability of newness – crucial external audiences such as media, consumers, and investors face uncertainty whether a new venture deserves their support. To address this challenge, a new venture seeks to manipulate its environment through cultural entrepreneurship efforts such as storytelling, impression management, and symbolic action that serve as identity claims aiming at influencing external audiences’ perceptions. These cultural entrepreneurship efforts support a venture in overcoming the liability of newness because it helps external audiences to understand who the new venture is, what it does and what it seeks to achieve. In response to such efforts, external audiences may perceive the venture as legitimately distinct (i.e. socially accepted and desirable) within a social context.
My cumulative dissertation consists of two major parts. In the first part, I review the intellectual journey that brought me to this point. The cumulative dissertation consists of six manuscripts, three published in well-respected international journals, the other three were submitted to reputable conferences.
Building on the insights of the first part, I develop a dynamic cultural entrepreneurship framework in the second part of my dissertation. The framework takes stock on how a new venture utilizes cultural entrepreneurship efforts with the aim to receive audience endorsements. An endorsement is a social evaluation predicated on three steps: an audience must attend to a venture, understand who the venture is and what it does, and, make some kind of value judgment, such as a pragmatic judgment regarding the value of a venture’s product offerings. I demonstrate that as a new venture evolves (i.e. launch, growth and maturity phase), it ought to address specific subtypes of an audience category (media, consumers, and investors) relevant to the current development stage of a venture (e.g. crowdfunders as investors in the launch phase, angel investors in the growth phase). I also consider the interactive effects among audiences, for instance, media stories positively affect investor decisions. At the start, a new venture can draw on its resources at hand (e.g. a founder’s social capital) to convince external audiences. As the new venture evolves, it can build on the audiences’ endorsements of previous phases in its cultural entrepreneurship efforts. These efforts are further influenced by three field level factors, namely, norms and rules of an industry, industry structure, and industry competition.
With this framework, I enrich conversations on new venture legitimation in general and the culture entrepreneurship literature specifically. I address three current gaps in the literature: first, the role of various audiences at a particular time of a new venture’s development, second, the role of openness or involvement of audiences in co-constructing legitimacy, and third, integrating the attention construct.
If you want to have a read my dissertation, please write me an e-mail to thomas.gegenhuber[a]jku.at