How management team composition affects academic
spin-offs’ entrepreneurial orientation: the mediating role
Juan Pablo Dia
Published online: 26 July 2015
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract This research has been designed with the purpose of analysing the inﬂuence of
both the composition of academic spin-offs’ management teams and the potential conﬂict
emerged within such teams on the degree of entrepreneurial orientation exhibited by
academic spin-offs. To this end, we have used the upper echelon theory as theoretical
background and have analysed the impact of the proportion of non-academic managers
within management teams, the heterogeneity of such teams with respect to the age and
main educational area of their managers, as well as the potential mediating role of the
conﬂict emerged. Drawing on a database of 167 Spanish academic spin-offs, results show,
on the one hand, that the presence of non-academic managers within management teams is
a key factor in the academic spin-offs’ exhibitions of higher levels of entrepreneurial
orientation and, on the other hand, that conﬂict fully mediates the relationship between
management teams’ age heterogeneity and entrepreneurial orientation.
Keywords Academic spin-offs Entrepreneurial orientation Management team age
heterogeneity Management team educational heterogeneity Non-academic managers
JEL Classiﬁcation M10 M13
&Juan Pablo Dia
Department of Business Organization, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Ca
Avda. Duque de Na
´jera, 8, 11002 Ca
J Technol Transf (2016) 41:530–557
Academic spin-offs (ASOs) are important vehicles for commercializing technologies and
represent a mechanism of wealth creation (Roberts and Malone 1996). Although patents
and research contracts have traditionally been considered the most frequently used way to
transfer the knowledge created in the university to society, recent studies highlight ASOs
as the most successful business alternative for promoting a commercial perspective vis-a
vis university research (O’Shea et al. 2008; Conceic¸a
˜o et al. 2012; Visintin and Pittino
2014). The creation of ASOs promotes the social and economic development of regions
since they play a determinant role in the generation of highly qualiﬁed employment
(Mustar et al. 2008). This increasing importance of the role developed by ASOs in social
and economic environments is reﬂected in the substantial increase in the creation of ASOs
in recent years (Wright et al. 2003; Clarysse and Moray 2004), as well as in the recent rise
of research interest by international scholars (Shane 2004; Wright et al. 2007; Djokovic
and Souitaris 2008; Bjørna
˚li and Gulbrandsen 2010; O’Shea et al. 2014).
Prior research has shown that ASOs usually have serious difﬁculties in achieving high
growth rates and usually demonstrate lower levels of performance than non-academic
spin-offs or technology-based ventures (Ensley and Hmieleski 2005; Mustar et al. 2008).
Consequently, the identiﬁcation of the obstacles that limit the development of ASOs is a
relevant issue. Previous research has pointed out as the main limiting factors the difﬁculty
for obtaining external funding (Wright et al. 2006); the inefﬁciency of the support received
from the academic environment (Siegel et al. 2003; Lockett and Wright 2005) and the
extremely competitive, innovative, and uncertain nature of the environments in which
ASOs usually operate (Knockaert et al. 2011). Finally, perhaps the most important barrier
is the ASOs’ management teams’ composition; speciﬁcally, the lack of certain skills and
abilities (Mosey and Wright 2007; Knockaert et al. 2011). To this respect, it is likely that
academic managers lack the skills, expertise, or knowledge required for recognizing and
exploiting entrepreneurial opportunities as well as managing the venture adequately
(Venkataraman 1997; Franklin et al. 2001; Niosi 2006). Further, ASO management teams
are often characterized by high degrees of homogeneity, which may prevent ASOs from
realizing innovative solutions (Chowdhury 2005). Considering all these limitations, the
analysis of the appropriate management team’s composition is a relevant issue. Speciﬁ-
cally, we consider that the establishment of management teams with adequate composi-
tions in terms of scientiﬁc and managerial proﬁles and higher degrees of heterogeneity
could be crucial factors for ASOs to achieve successful development (Heirman and
Clarysse 2004; Mustar et al. 2008; Bjørna
˚li 2009; Knockaert et al. 2011).
While it is true that the ASO literature has recognized that management teams can play an
important role in the successful development of ASOs (Heirman and Clarysse 2004;Mu
¨ller 2009), the research that analyses the inﬂuence of the
composition of ASO management teams on ASOs’ development and success is quite limited
when compared to the research carried out in other contexts. Empirical evidence is limited to
a series of descriptive (Clarysse and Moray 2004; Vohora et al. 2004;Rasmussenetal.2011)
and quantitative analyses (Ensley and Hmieleski 2005;Mu
˚li 2009; Visintin and Pittino 2010,2014). Moreover, most of these contributions
agree on two main aspects. First, there is a signiﬁcant lack of research devoted to analyse
whether the speciﬁc composition of ASO management teams in terms of heterogeneity is a
relevant issue for these ﬁrms. In this vein, the scarcity of works that speciﬁcally consider the
presence of managers with academic and non-academic backgrounds within ASO
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…531
management teams as a potential source of heterogeneity is especially noteworthy. Second,
research has usually focused on examining the link between ASO management teams’
composition and ﬁnancial and economic measures such as net cash ﬂow or employment
growth (Ensley and Hmieleski 2005;Mu
¨ller 2006). However, we consider that in the context
of ASOs, it would be more appropriate to analyse the ﬁrm-level behavior, where the inﬂuence
of the design and composition of management teams is more clearly reﬂected. Establishing a
focus on the entrepreneurial orientation (EO) reported by ASOs can be particularly relevant.
This is because ASOs usually face ambiguous, hostile, uncertain, technologically sophisti-
cated, and extremely competitive environments in which the adoption of proactive, entre-
preneurial and innovative strategies has been pointed out as crucial for venture’s development
(Covin and Slevin 1998;Pe
´rez and Sa
The main purpose of our paper is to examine the inﬂuence of the ASO management
team’s composition on ASOs’ EO. Speciﬁcally, we focus on the impact caused by the
incorporation of non-academic managers and the increase of both age and educational-area
heterogeneity (henceforth, educational heterogeneity) within the team. We realize that the
design of ASO management teams can be beneﬁcial for these ﬁrms due to greater cognitive
wealth (task conﬂict) and the incorporation of managerial knowledge, skills, and experi-
ence. However, we also consider potential detrimental impacts since higher degrees of
heterogeneity and the presence of managers with different backgrounds within manage-
ment teams can negatively affect team dynamics through potentially high degrees of
relationship conﬂict (Amason and Sapienza 1997; De Dreu and Weingart 2003). On the
one hand, the integration of non-academic members within management teams and the
increase of team heterogeneity might positively impact the adoption of entrepreneurial and
proactive behaviors by ASOs because they could incorporate new entrepreneurial and
business perspectives or lead to the consideration of diverse alternatives and perspectives
(Clarysse and Moray 2004; Barkema and Shvyrkov 2007; Talke et al. 2010; Knockaert
et al. 2011). On the other hand, the entry of non-academic members could lead to the
emergence of factional faultlines or cause perceptions of inequity amongst the parties and,
consequently, high levels of conﬂict (Hambrick et al. 2001; Li and Hambrick 2005).
Management team heterogeneity could also lead to high levels of relationship conﬂict
within management teams through the tendency that team members have to sort each other
into different social categories (Tajfel and Turner 1986; Pelled et al. 1999).
Our research states that although both the degree of heterogeneity of ASOs’ manage-
ment teams and the presence of non-academic professionals within those management
teams could be highly beneﬁcial for ASOs, it could also result in important costs because
of the potential relationship conﬂict that might emerge from these compositional factors
(Amason 1996; Pelled et al. 1999; Visintin and Pittino 2014). High levels of conﬂict could
inhibit ASOs from adopting innovative and proactive strategies by negatively affecting
communication and the exchange of innovative perspectives and ideas among members
(Finkelstein and Hambrick 1996; Barkema and Shvyrkov 2007). For this reason, we will
consider the mediating role of conﬂict when assessing the impact of ASO management
team composition on EO. We speciﬁcally consider the following questions: (1) How does
the proportion of non-academic managers within management teams inﬂuence ASOs’ EO?
(2) Does the degree of heterogeneity of ASO management teams exert any inﬂuence on the
ﬁrms’ EO? (3) Could the conﬂict that might emerge as a result of the design of hetero-
geneous management teams affect ASO’s EO?
Our paper contributes to the upper echelon, intragroup conﬂict, and entrepreneurship
literature in different ways. We extend the scope of upper echelon theory and
entrepreneurship literature in two ways: through the analysis of the effects of management
532 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
team composition and conﬂict on the EO of ASOs. Previous research within upper echelon
theory has traditionally been devoted to analysing the impact of these factors on ﬁrms’
performance (Mooney et al. 2007; Shrader and Siegel 2007) and little attention has been paid
to ﬁrm-level behavior. Further, we will make a contribution to upper echelon and
entrepreneurship literature because our study represents the ﬁrst attempt to assess, in the
speciﬁc context of academic entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial behavior of ASOs through
the analysis of the impact of management teams’ design and the level of conﬂict emerged
within such teams. Finally, our research could additionally allow expansion of knowledge in
the ﬁeld of intragroup conﬂict, providing empirical evidence regarding the effect of conﬂict
on ﬁrms’ EO. Although previous literature has noted the role of conﬂict as an important
predictor of ﬁrms’ innovation and creativity, little (and non-conclusive) research has been
devoted to analysis of the impact of the level of conﬂict within management teams on ﬁrms’
entrepreneurial behavior (Kellermanns and Eddleston 2006;Sciasciaetal.2013).
The paper proceeds as follows: in the following section we review the literature,
focusing on analysis devoted to EO and ASO management team composition. We then
discuss the relevance of ASO management team composition on the adoption of entre-
preneurial behavior by ASOs and establish the consequent research hypotheses for both
direct and mediated relationships. Following the empirical assessment of these hypotheses,
we discuss our ﬁndings and implications for both policymakers and researchers.
2 Theoretical background
2.1 Entrepreneurial orientation
Within the broad ﬁeld of entrepreneurship, EO has been analysed extensively from both an
individual and a ﬁrm-level perspective (Bolton and Lane 2012). At the individual level, EO
has been identiﬁed as a psychological concept that reﬂects the individual’s proclivity
toward entrepreneurial thought and action (Frese et al. 2002; Covin and Lumpkin 2011).
From this perspective, EO has been mostly employed for analysing the entrepreneurial
propensity of students and potential and nascent entrepreneurs (Gu
¨rol and Atsan 2006;
Kollmann et al. 2007; Harris and Gibson 2008; Kropp et al. 2008; Bolton and Lane 2012;
Elenurm 2012; Levenburg and Schwarz 2008) as well as for examining the link between
the EO exhibited by ﬁrms’ founders and managers and the performance of such organi-
zations (Koop et al. 2000; Frese et al. 2002; Krauss et al. 2005; Smart and Conant 2011).
Previous research has emphasized the suitability of this approach, since as Bolton and Lane
(2012, p. 220) pointed out, ‘‘understanding EO at the individual level could be valuable to
future business owners, to business incubators and to potential investors who are consid-
ering supporting business proposals’’.
However, in our paper, we leave the analysis of EO at the individual level out and,
drawing on the most common approach employed, we consider EO as a strategic orien-
tation that describes the ﬁrm’s level of entrepreneurial behaviour (Wiklund and Shepherd
2003; Covin and Lumpkin 2011; Covin and Wales 2012; Soininen et al. 2012). Some
researchers have highlighted that EO is closely linked to the strategic decision-making
process (Kanter 1982; Burgelman 1983; Naman and Slevin 1993; Lumpkin and Dess 1996;
Birkinshaw 1997). The concept of EO is speciﬁcally associated with the strategic process
by which organizations identify new opportunities and implement entrepreneurial actions
(Dess and Lumpkin 2005) and describes the ﬁrm’s organizational autonomy, willingness to
take risks, innovativeness, competitive aggressiveness, and proactive assertiveness
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…533
(Lumpkin and Dess 1996; Walter et al. 2006). In this context, autonomy is considered the
degree to which organizational players remain free to act independently, to make key
decisions, and to pursue opportunities. Risk-taking is connected to a ﬁrm’s proclivity for
supporting projects with uncertain returns. The notion of innovativeness reﬂects the
propensity of a ﬁrm to engage in new ideas and creative processes that may result in new
products, services, or technological processes. Competitive aggressiveness is the notion of
challenging competitors to achieve market entry or to improve market position. Finally,
proactiveness is deﬁned as anticipation in initiative-taking, the pursuit of new business
opportunities, and participation in emerging markets (Miller and Friesen 1982).
Beginning with the seminal work of Miller (1983), many studies have used EO as a
central concept within the entrepreneurship literature and it has received a substantial
amount of theoretical and empirical attention (Covin et al. 2006; Rauch et al. 2009).
Scholars have highlighted the crucial role of EO in the success of the ﬁrm (Wang 2008)as
well as in the boost of entrepreneurial activities (Covin and Lumpkin 2011). EO has been
studied predominantly through its relation to new ﬁrm performance and has been con-
sistently shown to be highly signiﬁcant (Knight 2000; Wiklund and Shepherd 2005; Rauch
et al. 2009; Bolton and Lane 2012).
This crucial role of EO is especially noteworthy in hostile and/or technologically
sophisticated environments, where companies need to seek out new opportunities (Naman
and Slevin 1993; Covin and Slevin 1998; Rauch et al. 2009). ASOs often face this kind of
environment because these ﬁrms are often forced to develop their own markets as a
consequence of (a) the speciﬁc and novel nature of the products and services that they offer
(Rodenberger and McCray 1981; Olofsson and Wahlbin 1984;Pe
´rez and Sa
(b) a need to challenge existing markets and technological standards (Walter et al. 2006).
In this context, ASOs’ efforts should focus on identifying new opportunities, innovating
and taking risks in their product-market strategies, and constantly anticipating demand and
other competitors. Thus, ASOs may beneﬁt from adopting an EO and higher performance
could be achieved (Rauch et al. 2009). However, the previous literature has devoted little
attention to the study of EO in the ﬁeld of ASOs (Helm and Mauroner 2007). One of the
few exceptions is the research of Walter et al. (2006). Drawing on a sample of 149 ASOs,
they found empirical evidences that EO had a highly signiﬁcant effect on the achievement
of ﬁrms’ competitive advantages.
2.2 Management team composition of academic spin-offs
The analysis of the inﬂuence of management team composition on the strategic orientation
of ASOs requires a consideration of the peculiar nature of ASOs, which is directly related
to the most relevant traits of their management teams (Clarysse and Moray 2004; Ensley
and Hmieleski 2005). First, and as a result of their academic entailments, founders of ASOs
usually have few contacts with non-academic managers and entrepreneurs when they start
the ﬁrm (Cooper and Daily 1996), and they may not belong to appropriate business and
ﬁnancial networks (Visintin and Pittino 2014). They usually present high levels of sci-
entiﬁc education and prior research experience, but a narrow range of other kind of
competences (Colombo and Piva 2008). Speciﬁcally, they often lack training in ﬁnance,
marketing, manufacturing, and general management (Niosi 2006). Moreover, their man-
agement and industry experiences are usually limited and their managerial skills for
leading a venture (which are different from those needed to lead a research group) are
mostly underdeveloped (De Cleyn et al. 2009; De Cleyn and Braet 2009). Consequently,
academic managers may not possess the skills or knowledge required to recognize and
534 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
exploit market opportunities (Venkataraman 1997; Franklin et al. 2001). On the other hand,
the academic backgrounds and proﬁles of ASOs team members could result in high degrees
of homogeneity, at least in the early stages (Ensley and Hmieleski 2005). This inherent
homogeneity could be explained by the common academic origins of academic founders as
well as their tendency to select new team members from their academic networks and
knowledge areas (Williamson and Cable 2003; Ensley and Hmieleski 2005).
The design of appropriate management teams becomes a relevant topic for the com-
mercial development and success of an ASO’s scientiﬁc research. In this vein, and taking
into account the previously described qualities that surround the composition of ASO
management teams, ASOs’ efforts should focus on building management teams that are
balanced in terms of scientiﬁc and business orientation (Visintin and Pittino 2014). For this
reason, the inclusion of outside professionals from non-university environments, as well as
members with different academic backgrounds, could be particularly beneﬁcial for ASOs
through increases to the team’s professionalism and cognitive diversity. This increased
heterogeneity could impact the EO of ASOs because it could increase the range of possible
strategic options as well as the novelty of the strategic decisions (Zahra 2005; Zahra et al.
2007; Kellermanns et al. 2008). The underlying premise is that by increasing heterogeneity
amongst the members of the management team of ASOs, task conﬂict—disagreements that
follow from different task-related viewpoints (Jehn 1997; De Wit et al. 2013)—is fostered.
If task conﬂict promotes the exchange of ideas, the revealing of assumptions, and the
synthesis of diverse perspectives into balanced and well-reasoned decisions, it may have
positive effects on innovation performance and EO (De Dreu and West 2001; Chen et al.
2005; Pitt 2005; De Dreu 2006; Li and Li, 2009). Ultimately, fostering task conﬂict
through heterogeneity may encourage top management team (TMT) members to question
the adequacy of their current thinking, to search for more effective ideas, and to consider
opposing perspectives with an open mind (Chen et al. 2005).
However, drawing on the intragroup conﬂict literature, our research also considers the
possible negative effects of an increase in the heterogeneity of management teams as a result
of the emergence of relationship conﬂicts—disagreements that arise from interpersonal
incompatibilities (Jehn 1997; De Wit et al. 2013). This literature has distinguished, funda-
mentally in the ﬁeld of the TMT, between these two dimensions of conﬂict (task conﬂict and
relationship conﬂict), arguing that they have different consequences on ﬁrms’ performance
and strategic orientation (Jehn 1995; Simons and Peterson 2000; Mooney et al. 2007; Jehn
et al. 2008). On the one hand, the dimension of the task conﬂict, as we have argued previ-
ously, is very positive for TMTs seeking EO (De Dreu and Weingart 2003;DeDreu2006;
Matsuo 2006). On the other hand, the most direct effects of relationship conﬂict are suspicion,
distrust, hostility, tension, friction, and animosity (Simons and Peterson 2000; Parayitam and
Dooley 2009). Consequently, relationship conﬂict prevents people from focusing on the
problem at hand and from open-mindedly generating new ideas (De Dreu 2006).
Although relationship conﬂict has consistently been found to inﬂuence performance
negatively, the empirical evidence has shown equivocal results for the inﬂuence of task
conﬂict on outcomes (De Dreu and Weingart 2003; De Wit et al. 2012). According to some
authors, the reason is the existence of an association between both types of conﬂict that
interferes with obtaining the beneﬁts of task conﬂict. Both dimensions of conﬂict seem to
be closely correlated and tend to appear together (Simons and Peterson 2000; Jehn and
Mannix 2001; Mooney et al. 2007). Some authors point out that highly critical evaluations
of others’ opinions can cause negative affective reactions such as tension and antagonism,
which divert attention and energy from the task at hand and toward interpersonal attacks
(Jehn 1997; Jiang 2006; Mooney et al. 2007). Consequently, the beneﬁts of task conﬂict
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…535
may be masked by high levels of relationship conﬂict (De Dreu and Weingart 2003). In this
regard, the meta-analyses by De Dreu and Weingart (2003) and De Wit et al. (2012)
showed that task conﬂict and group performance were more positively related in studies
where the association between task conﬂict and relationship conﬂict was relatively weak.
In this research, we uphold the thesis that the positive impact of heterogeneous man-
agement teams on ASOs’ EO could be hindered by the presence of high levels of conﬂict
within such teams. In addition, we also consider that when task conﬂict and relationship
conﬂict are examined simultaneously, the effect of task conﬂict beyond relationship
conﬂict is weak or nonexistent (Korsgaard et al. 2008). Relationship conﬂict is the harmful
dimension of conﬂict in the decision-making process and, once it has emerged within a
group, it is difﬁcult to mitigate its negative consequences (Amason and Sapienza 1997;De
Dreu and Weingart 2003).
3 Hypotheses development
3.1 Proportion of non-academic managers within management team
and entrepreneurial orientation
As previous studies in the literature have noted, members of ASO management teams
usually come from either university or non-university contexts (Clarysse and Moray 2004;
Visintin and Pittino 2010,2014) and could be categorized into two major groups: academic
managers and non-academic managers. Managers who come from university contexts
(academic managers) could be deﬁned as those members who were employed at the
university at the time of the ASO’s start-up and actively participated in the foundation of
the ﬁrm. Managers who come from non-university contexts (non-academic managers)
comprise the rest of the ASO’s management team and have non-university afﬁliation and
Previous research has pointed out that the entry of non-academic members in ASO
management teams could be beneﬁcial for academic managers to help them obtain the
stock of abilities, resources, and knowledge they usually lack and, consequently, facilitate
the transformation of the results of scientiﬁc knowledge and research into marketable
products or services (Clarysse and Moray 2004; Bjørna
˚li 2009; Knockaert et al. 2011).
Additionally, it is expected that the integration of individuals with previous entrepreneurial
or management/commercial experiences could positively impact the adoption of entre-
preneurial and proactive behaviors by ASOs because the individuals could incorporate new
entrepreneurial and business perspectives (Vanaelst et al. 2006). Some researchers have
pointed out the relevance of the professionalization of management teams to help ﬁrms
recognize and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities (Colombo et al. 2010), enhance their
degree of entrepreneurial behavior (Boeker 1997), and ultimately exhibit higher degrees of
EO (Salvato et al. 2010).
An additional argument could explain why the entry of non-academic managers into
management teams is expected to enhance an ASO’s EO. The inclusion of managers with
prior entrepreneurial or industrial experience could provide management teams with some
human capital that could have a direct impact on the entrepreneurial behavior of ASOs. It
is expected that these non-academic members will present an important ability to recognize
opportunities (Colombo and Grilli 2005) as well as high levels of entrepreneurial self-
efﬁcacy (Bandura 1992; Markman et al. 2005) as a result of knowledge and abilities
536 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
acquired through work experience, networks, workshops, and speciﬁc training (Wilson
et al. 2007). Relevant empirical studies have highlighted that both the ability to recognize
opportunities and entrepreneurial self-efﬁcacy are antecedents positively related to the
development of entrepreneurial behaviors and orientations (Chen et al. 1998; Poon et al.
2006; Jain and Ali 2013). Consequently, the presence of non-academic members reporting
high levels of these cognitive factors could inﬂuence the EO of ASOs.
Considering these arguments, we expect that the presence of non-academic profes-
sionals within ASO management teams with attitudes, knowledge, and experience oriented
to the business world will positively impact the EO adopted by ASOs.
Consequently, the following hypothesis is formulated:
Hypothesis 1a There is a positive relationship between the proportion of non-academic
managers within ASOs’ management teams and ASOs’ EO.
In contrast to the previously arguments presented above, the literature has also posited
that the presence of members within management teams with different backgrounds could
cause the existence of factions or subgroups and, consequently, important factional
faultlines (Lau and Murnighan 1998; Hambrick et al. 2001; Li and Hambrick 2005).
In the case of ASO management teams, the emergence of these factions could be a
relatively common process since such factions emerge as a result of pre-existing and con-
solidated differences. Academic and non-academic managers may exhibit important differ-
ences regarding culture, goals, business orientation, and commitment with respect to
entrepreneurial activities (Samsom and Gurdon 1993;Vohoraetal.2004), and these dif-
ferences could serve as the basis for the emergence and development of such faultlines. The
most noteworthy consequence of factional faultlines is the emergence of relationship con-
ﬂicts within management teams, which lead to interpersonal incompatibilities and mistrust
among members (Milliken and Martins 1996;Pelledetal.1999) and, ultimately, to an
impoverishment of teams’ and ﬁrms’ performance (Harrison and Klein 2007;Visintinand
Pittino 2014). Moreover, the emergence of faultlines and high levels of conﬂict within ASO
management teams could be detrimental to the adoption of innovative and proactive
strategies by ASOs since the communication and consideration of novel and ‘‘frame-
breaking’’ ideas would break down (Finkelstein and Hambrick 1996; Barkema and Shvyrkov
2007). When the communication between subgroups disappears, management teams might
not fully use the cognitive resources of their members. Consequently, it is less likely that
innovative strategic options would be proposed or considered within these teams (Finkelstein
and Hambrick 1996; Barkema and Shvyrkov 2007). The research of Li and Hambrick (2005)
in the context of joint ventures found empirical evidence that large demographic faultlines
between factions engendered conﬂict, which in turn led to poor performance. The meta-
analysis of Thatcher and Patel (2011) conﬁrmed that conﬂict partially mediated the rela-
tionships between demographic faultline’s strength and team’s performance and satisfaction.
Other applicable arguments that support the potential negative effects of the presence of
non-academic managers within ASO management teams come from Equity Theory (Ho-
mans 1961; Adams 1963,1965; Huseman et al. 1987). According to Adams (1965) the
perception of inequity could cause tension in the group. In this sense, Kabanoff (1991)
noted that distributive justice (a concept from equity theory) could be an important source
of relationship conﬂict in organizations. In the case of management teams, where the
starting point is a relationship of equality between the parties, their members feel free to
disagree about many issues, including the most efﬁcient way to allocate resources; who
contributed most to a particular outcome; and what inputs are more important for achieving
speciﬁc results (Kabanoff 1991; Pruitt and Rubin 1986). In these relationships (equal
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…537
relationships), each party depends on the other. For this reason, both parties are prone to
question their respective contributions and outcomes and perceive them as inequity.
In the case of ASO management teams, academic and non-academic managers could
differ in values, beliefs, attitudes, and orientation (Visintin and Pittino 2010,2014). Due to
the different cultures of the organizations they come from, the differences in perception
over the value of the contributions and outcomes of each party could be stressed, which
might bring about inequity perceptions and, therefore, situations with high levels of con-
ﬂict. Academics and non-academics can have divergent goals (Dasgupta and David 1994;
Vohora et al. 2004) as well as relevant differences in perceptions and behaviors (Vohora
et al. 2004; Visintin and Pittino 2014). First, non-academics’ earnings will probably
depend on the outcomes of ASOs, whereas academics can earn salaries from their uni-
versities. Second, it is likely that academics will give more importance to their academic
status than to their job as business owners, thus being less committed to the proﬁtability of
the business than the non-academics. Third, non-academics might believe that academics’
effort and commitment in the development of the ASO are not enough or that their
contribution to the management of the ﬁrm is not suitable. Conversely, academics might
believe that non-academics’ contribution is less tangible and will not value their efforts in
the management of the ASO since it is not linked to the development of scientiﬁc
knowledge. They might also believe that the outcomes regulated by economic value do not
contribute to the goals established by its founders.
Drawing on the above arguments, we consider that the incorporation of non-academics
could contribute to the formation of factions between academics and non-academics or
bring about perceptions of inequity and, therefore, could provoke high levels of conﬂict
within management teams that would have a negative effect on ASOs’ EO.
Therefore, we formulate the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1b Conﬂict mediates the relationship between the proportion of non-aca-
demic managers within ASOs’ management teams and ASOs’ EO, in such a way that the
proportion of non-academic managers will negatively affect ASOs’ EO through the level
of conﬂict generated.
3.2 Management team heterogeneity and entrepreneurial orientation
A frequently examined aspect of management team composition is heterogeneity, which
has usually been deﬁned as the degree to which management team members differ with
respect to characteristics such as functional experience, age, education, gender, or tenure
(Finkelstein and Hambrick 1996; Pelled et al. 1999; Carpenter et al. 2004).
Drawing on the predictions and insights from upper echelon theory, a heterogeneous
composition of management teams could lead to the consideration of many alternatives and
could enhance creativity and the likelihood that innovative and entrepreneurial strategic
decisions will be made (Bantel and Jackson 1989; Wiersema and Bantel 1992; Barkema
and Shvyrkov 2007; Beckman et al. 2007; Talke et al. 2010). Moreover, heterogeneous
teams have been shown to be more likely to manifest entrepreneurial and innovative
behaviors and enter new product markets than homogeneous teams (Boeker 1997). Con-
sequently, heterogeneous management teams could be especially beneﬁcial in management
processes that require creative thinking, innovative decisions, and entrepreneurial attitudes
(Jackson 1992; Milliken and Martins 1996).
However, the positive inﬂuence of management teams’ heterogeneity on the develop-
ment of EO has not been consistently demonstrated. This is because the empirical evidence
538 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
is scarce and not conclusive and is nonexistent in the speciﬁc context of ASOs. Some
empirical evidences, such as Sciascia et al. (2013), found a positive relationship between
functional heterogeneity of family ﬁrms’ management teams and EO. On the other hand,
Auh and Menguc (2005) found a negative relationship between TMTs’ functional
heterogeneity and EO in manufacturing ﬁrms.
We speciﬁcally put our focus in both age heterogeneity and educational heterogeneity
since they have been related to the increase of the entrepreneurial character of both
strategic orientation and decisions (Murray 1989; Talke et al. 2011). Besides, and con-
sidering the expected predominance of academics and researchers within management
teams, the analysis of other heterogeneity measures such as professional background
heterogeneity or educational level heterogeneity could be meaningless. In this vein, pre-
vious research such as Ortı
´n et al. (2008), Bjørna
˚li (2009), or Mosey and Wright (2007)
have pointed out the crucial role played by age and educational heterogeneity in the
context of ASOs. Thus, we expect that the breadth of perspectives and visions provided by
managers with diverse ages and educational specializations could decisively impact the
strategic orientation adopted by ASOs.
3.2.1 Management team age heterogeneity
Traditionally, the literature has considered age as an important demographic variable
inﬂuencing decisional processes (Hambrick and Mason 1984; Hitt and Tyler 1991).
However, when analysing the effects of the heterogeneity of management teams’ age on
innovative and proactive decisions and behaviors, it is possible to ﬁnd conﬂicting argu-
ments and non-conclusive empirical results (Olson et al. 2006).
On the one hand, some literature points out that management teams beneﬁt from having
managers with a broad range of ages because age heterogeneity within management teams
reﬂects a varied set of experiences, perspectives, belief systems, afﬁliations, and social ties
(Richard and Shelor 2002; Bjørna
˚li 2009) that can increase the variety of perspectives on
strategic issues facing ﬁrms (Wiersema and Bantel 1992). The underlying assumption is
that differences in age reﬂect an important variety of cognitive resources as a result of the
multi-faceted experiences and backgrounds of individuals who have lived in different
social, political, and economic settings (Entrialgo et al. 2001; Naranjo-Gil and Hartmann
2007). This breadth of perspectives enhances cognitive information processing and allows
teams to be more effective in solving complex and non-routine problems, as well as
addressing strategic issues and the challenges imposed by turbulent environments (Bantel
and Jackson 1989; Ancona and Caldwell 1992; De Dreu and West 2001; Richard and
Shelor 2002; Zimmerman 2008). All of these characteristics are expected to increase the
entrepreneurial character of the strategic orientations and decisions of the management
team. The teams could make use of this broadmindedness and develop higher abilities to
search entrepreneurial opportunities (Murray 1989); to respond to environmental demands
(Hurst et al. 1989; Knight et al. 1999; Pitcher and Smith 2001); to identify the need for
changes in strategic orientation (Naranjo-Gil and Hartmann 2007); and, ultimately, to
provide ASOs the appropriate EO for developing innovative and proactive behaviors.
However, a review of the literature also reveals that empirical analyses are not con-
clusive. Some studies have found null or negative effects of diverse management team ages
on ﬁrms’ performance and adoption of innovative and proactive strategies (Olson et al.
2006). In these studies, age heterogeneity was not found to be signiﬁcantly related to
innovation (Bantel and Jackson 1989; Coff 2003) or strategic change (Wiersema and
Bantel 1992; Naranjo-Gil and Hartmann 2007; Wu et al. 2011). Olson et al. (2006) showed
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…539
that there was a negative relationship between management teams’ age heterogeneity and
ﬁrms’ innovation. In the ASO context, Bjørna
˚li (2009) could not demonstrate the inﬂuence
of management teams age heterogeneity on the likelihood that ASOs would receive
funding from venture capitalists.
The argument traditionally employed for explaining these controversial ﬁndings is the
emergence of relationship conﬂicts as a result of age heterogeneity (Pelled et al. 1999;Li
and Hambrick 2005; Olson et al. 2006; Wu et al. 2011). Previous literature has argued that
heterogeneity based on relatively impermeable attributes such as race, gender or age is
more likely to cause a conﬂict through the tendency of team members to sort each other
into different social categories (Tajfel and Turner 1986; Pelled et al. 1999). This tendency
can result from team members deﬁning their identities and protecting themselves from
members with different values, attitudes, and perspectives. In this sense, the literature has
shown that younger managers tend to be more risk-oriented, may have less commitment to
the status quo, and therefore may be more willing to undertake novel and entrepreneurial
strategies (Hambrick and Mason 1984; Wiersema and Bantel 1992; Goll et al. 2008).
Moreover, it is generally accepted that as people grow older, they become less ﬂexible with
regard to change and tend to take fewer risks (Grimm and Smith 1991). Whatever the
reason, once the sorting-out takes place, the emergence of hostile interactions, con-
frontations, and conﬂicts within management teams is likely to occur.
Thus, a mediation relationship could exist between management team age hetero-
geneity, conﬂict, and EO. We hold that in the ASO context, age heterogeneity could be
necessary and beneﬁcial for the development of EO. However, because it might result in
high levels of conﬂict within management teams, we suggest that age heterogeneity affects
EO negatively through the level of conﬂict generated in the team.
Therefore, the following hypothesis is established:
Hypothesis 2 Conﬂict mediates the relationship between management teams’ age
heterogeneity and ASOs’ EO, in such a way that age heterogeneity will negatively affect
ASOs’ EO through the level of conﬂict generated.
3.2.2 Management team educational heterogeneity
Educational heterogeneity can be deﬁned as the extent to which managementteam members have
received training in different ﬁelds or the dissimilarity with which they have earned equivalent
levels of academic degrees (Ensley and Hmieleski 2005). In our research, we focus on team
members’ academic disciplines because it is expected that, as a result of their academic origins,
members of management teams of ASOs possess high levels of academic degrees. For this
reason, there may be an important contribution to the analysis of management team heterogeneity
in terms of their members’ ﬁelds of education and research (Mosey and Wright 2007).
A number of empirical studies carried out in different contexts have pointed to the
positive impact of management teams’ educational heterogeneity both on ﬁrms’ perfor-
mance (Smith et al. 1994; Hambrick et al. 1996; Ensley and Hmieleski 2005; Naranjo-Gil
et al. 2008; Talke et al. 2011) and on ﬁrm-level behavior (Wiersema and Bantel 1992;
Bantel 1993; Hambrick et al. 1996; Carpenter and Fredrickson 2001; Naranjo-Gil and
Hartmann 2007; Talke et al. 2011). This research has relied on the consideration of
educational heterogeneity as a task-related heterogeneity, which may be particularly
beneﬁcial for ﬁrms. Speciﬁcally, this positive impact has been attributed to the task conﬂict
emerged from such heterogeneity (Pelled et al. 1999). Therefore, management teams with
high degrees of cognitive diversity could be highly likely to experience task conﬂict, which
540 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
could promote the exchange of ideas, debate among members, the synthesis of diverse
perspectives into balanced and well-reasoned decisions, and the effective identiﬁcation and
creative exploitation of opportunities (Amason and Schweiger 1994; Simons and Peterson
2000; Mooney et al. 2007; Sciascia et al. 2013).
In spite of its potential beneﬁcial effects, some research has shown that educational
heterogeneity can be detrimental and, consequently, that the aforementioned positive
effects could be hindered. In this sense, it is possible to ﬁnd both null effects (Cannella
et al. 2008) and negative effects (Ensley et al. 1998; Amason et al. 2006). The limited
research in the ASO context reveals the same non-conclusive results. Visintin and Pittino
(2010) found that the educational heterogeneity of ASOs’ management teams was nega-
tively related to employment growth. Ensley and Hmieleski (2005) did not ﬁnd a rela-
tionship between educational heterogeneity and net cash ﬂow and Mu
¨ller (2006) could not
demonstrate the inﬂuence of educational heterogeneity on ASOs’ employment growth.
Drawing on this non-conclusive evidence, some researchers have suggested that these
counter-productive effects could be because task conﬂict (as a result of higher educational
diversity)is generally strongly and positively related to dysfunctional conﬂict, the relationship
being more intense when the level of conﬂict within management teams is high (Simons and
Peterson 2000; De Dreu and Weingart 2003;Mooneyetal.2007). Therefore, the promotion of
high levels of educational heterogeneity and the emergence of a high degree of task conﬂict,
could result in a reduction of the team’s ability to perceive, process, evaluate, and integrate
their diversity of knowledge and information because, simultaneously, it could activate a
process of strong debate and animosity that might rise to an emotional scale that would
hamper the development and implementation of innovative and entrepreneurial actions (De
Dreu 2006;LiandLi2009). Some researchers have shown that when task conﬂict and
dysfunctional conﬂict are examined simultaneously, the effect of task conﬂict beyond dys-
functional conﬂict is weak or nonexistent (Friedman et al. 2000;Medinaetal.2005;Kors-
gaard et al. 2008) and, consequently, the beneﬁcial effects of task conﬂict could be completely
nulliﬁed by high levels of dysfunctional conﬂict (De Dreu and Weingart 2003).
In the light of the above arguments, we consider that conﬂict should be especially taken into
account when the relationship between management teams’ educational heterogeneity and
ASOs’ EO is examined. As noted earlier, if educationalheterogeneity stimulates the emergence
of high levels of conﬂict within management teams, the impact of educational heterogeneity on
EO could be negative. High levels of conﬂict could cause the degree of information transfer and
sharing among team members to decrease, preventing them from getting a broader and more
innovative view of strategic choices. In addition, high levels of conﬂict may also erode com-
mitment and increase distrust, making it difﬁcult for team members to reach a consensus about
the ﬁrm’s strategic orientation (Li and Li 2009). In this vein, Sciascia et al. (2013)arguedthat
high levels of conﬂict within management teams could decisively inhibit ﬁrms’ EO.
Drawing on the above arguments, we consider that a mediation relationship exists between
educational heterogeneity, conﬂict, and EO. We hold that educational heterogeneity is
necessary and beneﬁcial to the development of EO. Nonetheless, as educational hetero-
geneity may result in the emergence of high levels of conﬂict, we suggest that educational
heterogeneity can affect EO negatively through the level of conﬂict generated in the team.
Considering all the above arguments, it makes sense to establish the following
Hypothesis 3 Conﬂict mediates the relationship between management teams’ educa-
tional heterogeneity and ASOs’ EO, in such a way that educational heterogeneity will
negatively affect ASOs’ EO through the level of conﬂict generated.
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…541
4.1 Sample and data collection
The population of this study consists of the ASOs founded in Spain between 2003 and
2011. To identify and obtain contact data, we addressed the 67 Spanish Technology
Transfer Ofﬁces (TTOs) (TTO Network 2011) through certiﬁed mail, electronic mail, and
telephone. For those cases in which the above information was not enough, we used
complementary sources such as the annual reports elaborated by incubators, technological
parks, or chairs of entrepreneurs. Then, we built a database of 555 Spanish ASOs. We
designed two questionnaires based on a review of the literature. The questionnaires were
pretested through interviews with founders and managers of seven ASOs, whose sugges-
tions were incorporated into the ﬁnal questionnaires. Both questionnaires were sent via
electronic mail. The ﬁrst questionnaire, composed of 25 questions, was sent to the main
academic founder; that is, the main researcher who actively participated in the ASO’s
foundation and, in addition, was a member of the management team at the moment of the
survey. For those cases in which the main researcher was no longer a member of the
management team or it was not possible to contact him/her, another academic manager
answered the questionnaire. The second questionnaire was composed of 22 questions and
the addressee was the ASO’s CEO, who might come from an academic or non-academic
context. When the ASO’s CEO presented an academic proﬁle, we did not send the
questionnaire to her/him; rather, we contacted a non-academic manager. Only for those
cases in which none of the management teams’ members came from non-academic con-
texts (28.1 % of the sample) the questionnaire was sent to an academic manager—different
from the member who answered the ﬁrst questionnaire—who actively participated in
decision-making and therefore had a wide perspective on the management of the ﬁrm and
the internal processes of its management team. Once the questionnaires were collected, we
had usable responses from 167 ASOs (30.1 % response rate).
The ASOs in the sample employed an average of 7.2 people and were 4.4 years old at
the time of the survey. Almost half of the ASOs in the sample (48.5 %) operated in
biotechnology, research and development, or chemical industries. The ASOs’ management
teams were composed, on average, of 4.4 managers, and 71.9 % of such teams presented a
mixed composition in terms of academic and non-academic managers.
To investigate the potential for non-response bias, Ttest comparisons of responding
versus non-responding ﬁrms based on age and number of employees were conducted. No
signiﬁcant differences between the two groups were found, leading us to conclude that a
no-response bias was not a likely threat to analysis.
4.2.1 Dependent variable
188.8.131.52 Entrepreneurial orientation A six-item, ﬁve-point Likert scale derived from the
EO scale developed by Walter et al. (2006) measured EO. To this end, we questioned to
two different managers about the degree to which the ASO exhibits entrepreneurial pre-
disposition (1: none; 5: a large degree). The scale contains items that refer to the key
features of a ﬁrm’s EO: autonomy, proactiveness, innovativeness, risk-taking, and
assertiveness in business development (Miller 1983; Dess et al. 1997). Three items were
542 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
adapted from Dess et al. (1997) and the other three were based on the work of Lumpkin
and Dess (1996). The scale demonstrated acceptable internal consistency, with a coefﬁ-
cient alpha of 0.853, which is an appropriate level according to Nunally and Bernstein’s
(1978) recommendations (levels above 0.70).
4.2.2 Independent variables
184.108.40.206 Proportion of non-academic managers We constructed this variable to assess the
impact of the presence of non-academics who manage the ASO on the ﬁrm’s EO. Drawing
on Visintin and Pittino (2010,2014), we asked the CEO about both the size of the
management team and the speciﬁc number of non-academic managers. We speciﬁcally
questioned the CEO about non-academic managers’ backgrounds, ﬁnding that all of them
either came directly from business contexts or had been imposed by outside investors. We
did not employ this information in our analysis and we considered non-academic managers
to be those management teams members with non-academic backgrounds and coming from
non-academic contexts. Then, we divided the number of non-academic managers by the
overall number of the management team’s members, obtaining the proportion of non-
academic managers within management teams.
220.127.116.11 Management team age heterogeneity We asked the CEO the degree to which the
management team members represented a variety in age, employing a Likert 5-point scale
ranging from 1 (a very small degree) to 5 (a very large degree). The index was inspired by
Huse (2007) and Bjørna
18.104.22.168 Management team educational areas heterogeneity Educational specialization
heterogeneity was calculated using Blau’s (1977) heterogeneity index H =(1 -Pi
where i =the proportion of the group in the ‘i’th category. A low H score represents
educational background homogeneity; a high score means variability in the major area of
education among the members of the team. The use of Blau’s index for categorical
measures is consistent with previous research (Allison 1978; Wiersema and Bantel 1992;
Smith et al. 1994; Keck 1997; Amason et al. 2006). Following previous studies in the
context of both new ventures and academic entrepreneurship (Amason et al. 2006; Landry
et al. 2006), individuals were categorized into eight educational specializations: arts, life
sciences, health sciences, social sciences, engineering, humanities, physics, mathematics
and statistics, and chemistry. The CEO was queried about the number of members who
belonged to each category.
22.214.171.124 Conﬂict Conﬂict was measured by two scales adapted from Amason (1996) and
Li and Li (2009). Three items were used to measure task conﬂict. Speciﬁcally, the three
items quantiﬁed the degree of disagreements over different ideas, decisions, and opinions
about business decisions. Dysfunctional conﬂict was also measured using three items that
measured the degree of anger, personal friction, and personality clashes experienced by
management teams during business decisions. Results of factor analysis show that these six
load on a single factor. Thus, we combined the six items together and created a one-
dimensional construct (a=0.886). This is consistent with previous studies that point out
that both task and dysfunctional conﬂict are causally related and represent a process that
unfolds over time (Pelled et al. 1999; Friedman et al. 2000; Wang et al. 2007; Korsgaard
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…543
et al. 2008). Responses of two different managers were obtained using a ﬁve-point Likert
scale ranging from no conﬂict (1) to a large degree of conﬂict (5).
4.2.3 Control variables
The study included three control variables: number of employees, external funding, and
industry type. Previous research has shown that the size of a ﬁrm can inﬂuence its EO
because larger ﬁrms have easier access to external resources, which could improve
entrepreneurial behavior (Zahra and Nielsen 2002; Sciascia et al. 2013). In our research,
we used a continuous variable to count the number of active persons working in the ﬁrm
including employees, active founders, and managers. We also controlled the impact of
external funding on the EO of ASOs. Previous research such as Shepherd and Zacharakis
(1999); Baeyens et al. (2006); or Renko et al. (2009) have argued that external investors
put a strong emphasis on the venture’s innovation and entrepreneurial potential when
making their funding decisions. To control for this, a binary variable was created: 1 if the
ASO has received external funding from business angels, venture capitalists, or other
agents; and 0 otherwise. Finally, for industry type a binary variable with 1 =biotech-
nology, chemical, or R&D, and 0 =otherwise was created. This categorization is based on
previous work such as Vohora et al. (2004) and Vendrell-Herrero and Ortı
and it is consistent with the classiﬁcation created for the Spanish Center for Industrial and
Technological Development (CITD).
4.3 Analysis and results
The means, standard deviations, and bivariate correlations for all variables are presented in
Table 1. With regard to the possible existence of collinearity among the variables, Table 2
shows that the values of the signiﬁcant correlations are not high enough to justify concern.
Moreover, the analysis of the variance inﬂuence factor (VIF) reveals that there are no
multicollinearity problems because the VIF of all variables was below the VIF of 10 that
Kennedy suggested as warning of ‘‘harmful collinearity’’ (Kennedy 1992:183). The sta-
tistical technique used to test the hypotheses was multiple regression analysis. Results are
summarized in Table 3.
Model 1 includes the control variables, which are all positively and signiﬁcantly related
to EO (for number of employees, p\0.05; for external funding, p\0.001; for industry,
Table 1 Descriptive statistics
Source: Own elaboration
SD Standard deviation, Min
minimum values, Max maximum
Variables Mean SD Min Max
1. Entrepreneurial orientation 3.981 0.604 1 5
2. Proportion of non-academics 0.174 0.257 0 1
3. Age heterogeneity 2.193 1.255 1 5
4. Educational heterogeneity 0.197 0.291 0 1
5. Conﬂict 1.805 0.606 1 5
6. Number of employees 7.287 7.288 1 47
7. External funding 0.131 0.339 0 1
8. Industry type 0.455 0.499 0 1
544 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
Model 2 contains the control variables together with the predictor variables and was
developed to test the direct effect of the proportion of non-academic managers on EO; that
is, hypothesis 1a. Results show that the independent variables contribute to an adjusted R
of 0.147, and that the Fstatistic is signiﬁcant (p\0.001). With respect to the direct effect
of proportion of non-academic managers on ASOs’ EO, the predicted positive inﬂuence is
corroborated (p\0.01) and Hypothesis 1a is supported.
The Hypotheses 1b, 2, and 3 establish the mediating role of conﬂict between the
independent variables (proportion of non-academic managers, age heterogeneity, and
educational heterogeneity, respectively) and the dependent variable (EO). To test these
hypotheses, it must be conﬁrmed that the conditions necessary for mediation are met
(Baron and Kenny 1986).
The ﬁrst condition is that a signiﬁcant relationship between the independent and the
dependent variable exists. From Model 2, a positive and signiﬁcant impact of proportion of
non-academic managers on EO (p\0.01) is demonstrated. A negative and signiﬁcant
relationship between management team age heterogeneity and EO (p\0.05) is also
shown. Finally, the relationship between management team educational heterogeneity and
EO is not signiﬁcant (p[0.1).
The second condition implies that a signiﬁcant relationship exists between the inde-
pendent and the mediating variable (conﬂict). In order to test this condition, Model 3 was
built. Results extracted from Model 3 show that, on the one hand, proportion of non-
academic managers and educational heterogeneity are not signiﬁcantly related to conﬂict
(p[0.1). On the other hand, age heterogeneity does positively and signiﬁcantly impact
conﬂict (p\0.05). In the light of this result, we can say that both Hypotheses 1b and 3 are
The third condition establishes the existence of a signiﬁcant relationship between the
mediator and the dependent variable. Model 4 was built to test the effects of the mediating
variable and the predictor variables jointly on EO. In addition, this model will allow us to
test whether the signiﬁcant relationship between the independent variables and the
dependent variable is no longer signiﬁcant, or at least its level of signiﬁcance decreases
Table 2 Correlation matrix
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Proportion of non-
Age heterogeneity -0.155** 0.228*** 1
-0.020 0.076 0.216*** 1
Conﬂict -0.223*** 0.092 0.028 -0.036 1
Number of employees 0.127 0.238*** 0.164** -0.049 0.134 1
External funding 0.198** 0.172** 0.110 0.156** 0.077 0.126 1
Industry type 0.233** -0.028 0.148 0.269** -0.108 0.053 0.142 1
Source: Own elaboration
*p\0.005, ** p\0.01, *** p\0.001
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…545
Table 3 Results of hierarchical regression analysis
Variables Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4
Dependent variable Entrepreneurial orientation Entrepreneurial orientation Conﬂict Entrepreneurial orientation
Coefﬁcient tvalue Coefﬁcient tvalue Coefﬁcient tvalue Coefﬁcient tvalue
Number of employees 0.146* 2.423 0.111
External funding 0.267*** 10.766 0.187** 3.321 -0.123 -1.018 0.212*** 4.903
Industry type 0.228*** 10.573 0.229*** 5.861 -0.142 -1.071 0.269*** 5.027
Proportion of non-academic managers 0.162** 3.266 0.022 0.326 0.171** 3.022
Management team age heterogeneity -0.159* -1.997 0.131* 2.479 -0.165 -1.313
Management team educational heterogeneity -0.041 -0.985 -0.031 -0.390 -0.068 -0.803
Conﬂict -0.231** -3.189
Constant -0.285** -4.580 -0.517** -3.198 -0.229 -1.272 -0.514 -3.502
0.136 0.179 0.052 0.229
0.121 0.147 0.011 0.189
Fstatistic 8.084*** 2.913** 1.015 6.064***
Standardized coefﬁcients are reported
Source: Own elaboration
p\0.1, * p\0.05, ** p\0.01, *** p\0.001
546 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
when the effect of the mediating variable is controlled. Results of Model 4 conﬁrm, on the
one hand, the existence of a signiﬁcant and negative relationship between conﬂict and EO
(p\0.01) and, on the other hand, that the impact of management teams’ age heterogeneity
on EO is not signiﬁcant (p[0.1) once the inﬂuence of conﬂict is controlled. Therefore, we
can conclude that conﬂict fully mediates the relationship between management teams’ age
heterogeneity and EO and, consequently, Hypothesis 2 is supported. Complementing the
causal step approach, we carry out a Sobel test to determine the signiﬁcance of the
mediated effect of management team age heterogeneity on EO via conﬂict. Since small
samples rarely meet the distributional assumptions underlying the Sobel test, we use
bootstrapping to generate a distribution based on the data, following procedures outlined
by Preacher and Hayes (2004). Our results conﬁrm the mediating effect of conﬂict
5 Discussion and conclusion
The main purpose of this research has been to analyse how the presence of non-academic
members within ASO management teams and the levels of heterogeneity reported by such
teams could inﬂuence ASOs’ EO. To this end, we have taken into account that the potential
positive effects derived by both compositional factors could be mediated by the level of
conﬂict found within the management teams.
Our results have shown that the presence of non-academic members within management
teams increases the degree of EO reported by ASOs (Hypothesis 1a). This ﬁnding suggest
that the entry of professional managers could, on the one hand, provide management teams
with some human capital directly related to the development of entrepreneurial behaviour.
Speciﬁcally, ASOs could decisively increase their levels of entrepreneurial self-efﬁcacy
and opportunity recognition and, consequently, exhibit higher degrees of EO. On the other
hand, the presence of non-academic managers can also result in a higher cognitive
diversity within management teams through the incorporation of new entrepreneurial and
business perspectives (Vanaelst et al. 2006). Our results also seem to indicate that conﬂict
is not relevant when the relationship between the proportion of non-academic managers
and EO is examined since we have not found empirical support for the mediating role of
conﬂict in this relationship (Hypothesis 1b). A possible explanation for this result could be
that the emergence of factional faultlines and high levels of conﬂict is more likely when
groups are split into subgroups of comparable power (Mannix and Neale 2005). At this
point, we should note that the presence of non-academic managers within ASOs’ man-
agement teams is often imposed by venture capital ﬁrms and other external investors
(Vanaelst et al. 2006). As a result, the inﬂuence and power of academic founders in
decision-making could be more limited with regards to non-academic subgroups and,
consequently, the likelihood of the emergence of pronounced conﬂicts could be signiﬁ-
cantly lower. This explanation can also be derived from the premises of equity Theory.
Since these teams are not managed by an equal relationship, their members do not feel free
to disagree about many key issues. In these relationships (non-equal relationships), the
tendency to question other team members’ respective contributions and outcomes and see
them as inequity is less stressed and, for this reason, the levels of conﬂict are lower.
Although the empirical research supporting these ﬁndings is nonexistent, we highlight
some studies that extract similar conclusions to ours. Visintin and Pittino (2014) found that
the differentiation of founding teams between academic and non-academic members
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…547
positively inﬂuences ASO performance. For its part, the research conducted by these
authors in 2010 could not demonstrate that high levels of separation between academics
and non-academics negatively inﬂuenced ASOs’ employment growth through the emer-
gence of relationship conﬂicts.
With regard to the inﬂuence of management teams’ heterogeneity and the level of
conﬂict within such management teams on ASOs’ EO, we have only obtained partial
empirical support. On the one hand, results corroborate that conﬂict fully mediates the
relationship between age heterogeneity and EO (Hypothesis 2). This result seems to
suggest that the negative effects of conﬂict on EO completely mask the potential beneﬁts of
age heterogeneity. In other words, the emergence of high levels of conﬂict as a result of the
presence of managers with a diverse range of ages could trigger misattribution processes,
personal animosity, tension, and lack of trust among the team members (Simons and
Peterson 2000) that undermine consensus and agreement, and thereby the potential
entrepreneurial advantages of having a group with different types of knowledge and per-
spectives (Sciascia et al. 2013). Our ﬁndings are in line with previous research carried out
under the premises of upper echelon theory. This research has shown that teams that are
more heterogeneous in non-task-related attributes tend to have lower overall team per-
formance than those teams that are more homogeneous (Jehn et al. 1999; Simons et al.
1999). According to social categorization theory (Tajfel 1981; Turner et al. 1987), our
results suggest that when heterogeneity is based on a relatively impermeable attribute such
as age, the likelihood of a negative inﬂuence on ﬁrms’ performance is higher as a result of
the natural tendency for categorization and polarization of distinct social groups (Tim-
merman 2000). In this respect, our ﬁndings suggest the applicability of these premises in
the speciﬁc ASOs’ context. Among the previous empirical evidence supporting our ﬁnd-
ings, we focus on the work of Jehn et al. (1999), who showed that management teams’ age
heterogeneity led to the emergence of relationship conﬂict, concluding that the relationship
between age heterogeneity and ﬁrm’s innovative behaviour could be mediated by such
Our results have not provided empirical support for Hypothesis 3, which predicted a
mediating role for conﬂict in the relationship between educational heterogeneity and EO.
The underlying explanation for this unexpected ﬁnding could lie in the high levels of
homogeneity in educational areas exhibited by ASO management teams. As reported in
Table 1, the degree of educational heterogeneity only reaches 19 %. These results suggest
that most of the members who compose ASO management teams are academics who come
from the same research group or university environment and decide to exploit the com-
mercial opportunities in the joint research. In this vein, previous researches, such as Ensley
and Hmieleski (2005)orMu
¨ller (2006) have pointed out that the null effect of educational
heterogeneity on ASOs performance could have its origin on the similar research-oriented
origins of ASOs’ founders. Consequently, the degree of management teams’ cognitive
diversity could be lower than expected (Wright et al. 2007). Thus, and contrary to our
expectances, educational heterogeneity could not be important in shaping members’
cognitive orientation and the likelihood of emergence of conﬂict could signiﬁcantly
This research offers several contributions. First, we contribute to the framework of the
upper echelon perspective, intragroup conﬂict literature, and academic entrepreneurship
literature since we have analysed the inﬂuence of different kinds of management teams’
heterogeneity and their potential for conﬂict on ASOs’ strategic behavior, where research
is very limited (Ensley and Hmieleski 2005; Moog and Soost 2014; Visintin and Pittino
2010). Most research that analyses the base premises of upper echelon and intragroup
548 J. P. Dia
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
conﬂict perspectives is focused on established ﬁrms’ management teams (Bantel 1993;
Hambrick et al. 1996; Pelled et al. 1999; Talke et al. 2011; Wiersema and Bantel 1992);
more recently, on new ventures’ management teams (Amason et al. 2006; Ensley and
Hmieleski 2005; Hmieleski and Ensley 2007); and even on speciﬁc contexts such as joint
ventures and mergers (Li and Hambrick 2005). For this reason, our research, which is set in
the context of ASOs, allows us to further the knowledge regarding whether the starting
premises of the upper echelon and intragroup conﬂict perspectives have a universalist
relevance, and consequently can be applicable to the idiosyncrasy of the management
teams of ASOs. On the one hand, our ﬁndings seem to conﬁrm that for these management
teams, in a similar way to other contexts, heterogeneity based on relatively impermeable
attributes such as age is more likely to cause high levels of conﬂict, which neutralise the
positive effects of this heterogeneity (Bantel and Jackson 1989; Coff 2003; Naranjo-Gil
and Hartmann 2007; Wiersema and Bantel 1992; Wu et al. 2011). On the other hand, our
research has conﬁrmed that, in the case of ASOs’ management teams, heterogeneity linked
to tasks does not cause high levels of conﬂict and, consequently, ASOs’ EO is not nega-
tively affected. This ﬁnding might reﬂect the differentiated behaviour of ASOs’ man-
agement teams with respect to established ﬁrms’ TMTs since the empirical research
developed in the TMT context has returned mixed results in analysing the impact of the
heterogeneity linked to task on ﬁrms’ innovation or EO (Auh and Menguc 2005; Camelo-
Ordaz et al. 2005; De Clercq et al. 2008; Li and Li 2009; Sciascia et al. 2013). Our result
supports the literature stream that claims the need to contextualise research in order to
analyse how management team heterogeneity inﬂuences team conﬂict and, in turn, ﬁrm’s
innovative and entrepreneurial behaviour (Qian et al. 2013; De Wit et al. 2013). We also
contribute, in a different way, to the research on conﬂict within the context of the TMT.
Although the literature suggests that conﬂict is an important predictor of innovation and
creativity, the inﬂuence of the level of conﬂict within the TMT on ﬁrms’ entrepreneurial
behavior has rarely been analysed, and results have sometimes been inconclusive
(Kellermanns and Eddleston 2006; Sciascia et al. 2013). Finally, we also make a contri-
bution to the literature on entrepreneurship because this research represents the ﬁrst
attempt to assess the EO of ASOs through the analysis of the impact of management teams’
compositions and the conﬂict that arises within such teams.
Several future research routes can be posited from the limitations of this research. A
major limitation here is the use of cross-sectional data, which does not allow the capture of
the dynamics of how changes in the management teams’ composition may affect the
evolution of conﬂict within such teams and, ultimately, ASOs’ strategic orientation. We
recognize that management teams’ composition and conﬂict are not stable variables, but
rather dynamic, and may change over time (Arrow et al. 2004; Vanaelst et al. 2006; Greer
et al. 2008; Humphrey and Aime 2014; Korsgaard et al. 2014). In this respect, a longi-
tudinal study might produce deeper insights into the changing dynamics of ASOs’ man-
agement teams. Additionally, the cross-sectional nature of our data requires caution when
drawing causal inferences because the relationships may be susceptible to endogeneity,
which can play a role in management team research (Certo et al. 2006; Hambrick 2007).
We could have considered the analysis of management teams’ heterogeneity through other
dimensions especially relevant in the ASO context. To this respect, and following Visintin
and Pittino (2010,2014), an analysis of the heterogeneity of ASOs’ management teams in
terms of academic status and ownership distribution could be appropriate. Third, and
taking into account our empirical ﬁndings about the role of conﬂict, it could be interesting
to analyse the effect that other team process variables such as trust or behavioral inte-
gration would exert on the relationships examined by our research. Finally, further analysis
How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’…549
could take into account the research developed in other contexts and also consider the
direct relationship between EO and other ﬁrms’ performance, such as innovative perfor-
mance (Hult et al. 2004) or ﬁrms’ growth (Moreno and Casillas 2008).
Lastly, important practical implications can be derived from this research. First, our
study makes clear that ASOs need to build management teams balanced in terms of
scientiﬁc and business proﬁles. The role played by university support institutions could be
especially relevant here. On the one hand, these institutions should focus part of their
efforts on instilling in academic entrepreneurs the necessity of including external profes-
sionals with business knowledge and expertise within ASO management teams. On the
other hand, they should do everything possible to foster relationships with diverse agents in
order to facilitate the access of ASOs’ founders to such agents. In other words, university
support institutions should broaden their ﬁelds of action and channel their efforts toward
building strong relationships within the business environment. Another important recom-
mendation should be addressed to ASOs’ managers, who should be especially careful when
non-task-related heterogeneity is increased. ASOs should create the appropriate psycho-
logical context within management teams for adequately managing the potential detri-
mental effects of relationship conﬂict. In this vein, the introduction and encouragement of
certain elements for managing conﬂict such as intragroup trust or value consensus among
team members could facilitate communication, collaboration, and joint decision-making,
reducing the likelihood of misinterpretation and thereby generating better response to
changes and more innovative and proactive approaches by management teams.
Acknowledgments The authors appreciate ﬁnancial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science and
Technology Project ECO2010-18325.
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