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How management team composition affects academic spin-offs’ entrepreneurial orientation: the mediating role of conflict

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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.
How management team composition affects academic
spin-offs’ entrepreneurial orientation: the mediating role
of conflict
Juan Pablo Dia
´nez-Gonza
´lez
1
Carmen Camelo-Ordaz
1
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
Conflict
JEL Classification M10 M13
&Juan Pablo Dia
´nez-Gonza
´lez
juanpablo.dianez@uca.es
Carmen Camelo-Ordaz
maricarmen.camelo@uca.es
1
Department of Business Organization, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Ca
´diz,
Avda. Duque de Na
´jera, 8, 11002 Ca
´diz, Spain
123
J Technol Transf (2016) 41:530–557
DOI 10.1007/s10961-015-9428-5
1 Introduction
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
2006;Mustaretal.2008;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
¨ller 2006;Bonardo2008;Mu
¨ller
2009;Bjørna
˚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
123
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
´nchez 2003;Walteretal.2006).
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
´nez-Gonza
´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
123
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
123
(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
´nchez 2003)or
(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
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123
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
123
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
business backgrounds.
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
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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
123
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
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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
123
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
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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:
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
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4 Methods
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 Measures
4.2.1 Dependent variable
4.2.1.1 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
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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
4.2.2.1 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.
4.2.2.2 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
˚li (2009).
4.2.2.3 Management team educational areas heterogeneity Educational specialization
heterogeneity was calculated using Blau’s (1977) heterogeneity index H =(1 -Pi
2
)
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.
4.2.2.4 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
123
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
´n-A
´ngel (2010)
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,
p\0.001).
Table 1 Descriptive statistics
Source: Own elaboration
SD Standard deviation, Min
minimum values, Max maximum
values
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
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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
2
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
not supported.
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
Entrepreneurial
orientation
1
Proportion of non-
academics
0.157** 1
Age heterogeneity -0.155** 0.228*** 1
Educational
heterogeneity
-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
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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
1.623 0.124
1.651 0.144
1.673
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
R
2
0.136 0.179 0.052 0.229
Adjusted R
2
0.121 0.147 0.011 0.189
DR
2
0.043** 0.050**
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
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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
(z=-2.29; p\0.05).
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
123
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
conflict.
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
decrease.
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
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´lez, C. Camelo-Ordaz
123
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
123
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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... Such differences can be a core strength for the ASO, given that the successful management of an ASO typically requires an in-depth understanding of science as well as the commercial world (Storey and Tether, 1998;Vanaelst et al., 2006;Vohora et al., 2004). However, in some cases, different cognitive scripts may lead to dysfunctional collaborative dynamics, where team members gravitate towards categorizing themselves into distinct social groups 'us' versus 'them', which impacts negatively on their venture's performance (Ben-Hafaïedh et al., 2018;Clarysse et al., 2005;Diánez-González and Camelo-Ordaz, 2016). While prior research has acknowledged this challenge, our study is among the first to offer theoretical insights into how it can be overcome. ...
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In recent decades, universities have put considerable emphasis on their ‘Third Mission’ and have thus expanded their portfolio of core activities to include activities related to university-industry collaboration and science commercialisation. An important mechanism to implement the university’s third mission is the creation of academic spinoffs that are start-ups based on research produced at universities and other public research institutions. Research on academic spinoffs has thus experienced significant growth, and several literature reviews have sought to map the often-fragmented knowledge in this topic area. Yet, we still lack an overview of the decision making of academic entrepreneurs and relevant stakeholders – an overview that is of paramount importance in the effort of scholars and policy-makers to understand what drives the creation of (more) academic spinoffs that have good chances of surviving and thriving. This paper is based on 60 papers published during the period 2003–2021 and provides a comprehensive overview of all topics covered in the body of literature on the entrepreneurial decision making of academic spinoffs, by identifying the most salient topics, papers, and trends within this literature. Our analysis shows that the literature on the topic clusters around four macro-areas: contextual factors, spinoff development and performance, nascent academic entrepreneurship, and science parks. Our study further compares and contrasts our findings with the highly influential framework for entrepreneurial decision making of Shepherd, Williams, and Patzelt [2015. “Thinking About Entrepreneurial Decision Making: Review and Research Agenda.” Journal of Management 41 (1): 11–46] and proposes future research directions in light of the unique characteristics of academic entrepreneurs and academic spinoffs.
This paper examines the link between the composition of university entrepreneurial ecosystems and performance of higher education institutions (HEIs) in academic entrepreneurship, specifically founding academic spinoff companies. The paper studies a sample of 160 UK HEIs and their university entrepreneurial ecosystems related to formation of 784 academic spinoffs. It employs social network analysis (SNA) to inspect the composition and connections between university entrepreneurial ecosystems. It finds that HEIs based in better developed university entrepreneurial ecosystems are associated with formation of greater numbers of academic spinoff companies. The best performing ecosystems are based in the Greater South East region. It is concluded that policymakers need to recognize the importance of the composition of the university entrepreneurial ecosystems and the role it plays in academic entrepreneurship.
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Drawing on the attention-based view, this study investigates the linkage of top management team (TMT) conflict to entrepreneurial orientation (EO) and the moderating effect of organizational structure in terms of formalization and centralization on the linkage. It finds that TMT cognitive conflict is positively related to EO, while affective conflict is negatively related to it. Furthermore, formalization positively moderates the linkage of TMT cognitive conflict to EO, while negatively moderates the negative linkage of TMT affective conflict to EO. Moreover, centralization does not significantly moderate the linkage of either TMT cognitive or affective conflict to EO. This study enriches our knowledge of the antecedents of EO, improves our understanding of the value of TMT conflict by distinguishing between TMT cognitive conflict and affective conflict, and introduces a novel insight—the attention-based view—to elaborate the TMT conflict-EO linkage.
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Purpose This research focuses on the relationship between Top Management Team heterogeneity (TMT) and University Spin-Offs (USOs) economic performance according to a micro-foundational perspective. The purpose consists in exploring whether a high academic representation in TMTs may improve USOs’ performance and how their competencies and backgrounds affect USOs’ economic success. Design/methodology/approach The authors employed data from the Italian platform Netval to identify the entire population of USOs in southern Italy. They selected both pure and hybrid spin-offs that had at least one academic member on the TMT. Applying these conditions to our sample selection, the authors came to a population of 136 firms. They applied a hierarchical regression analysis to test the hypotheses. Findings Our main findings reveal that the USOs’ economic performance improves with more academicians in the TMT and even in the same scientific field. Our data also shows that CEO duality has a negative impact on economic performance. Originality/value This work takes for the first time a micro-foundational perspective to analyze individual-level factors that affect USOs’ performance. The authors tried to bridge a research gap in the USO literature, shedding light on the relationship between TMT composition and new venture performance, considering some significant interactions between team members. Our expected findings also contribute to the general literature on entrepreneurial teams in new ventures and suggest a means to reconcile some inconsistent literature results on TMT heterogeneity and USO performance.
Chapter
Since the early 1980s, universities in developed countries have greatly increased their entrepreneurial activities, including patenting and licensing; establishing incubators, science parks, and university spin-offs; investing equity in start-ups; and assisting regional economic development. We endeavor to make the following contributions: First, we conduct a comprehensive review of the university spin-off literature. The evaluation and synopsis of the literature will identify the determinants and consequences of university spin-off activity. Second, we develop a conceptual framework containing six major research streams that have emerged: (1) studies that focus on the individual and the personality of the individual as the key determinant of whether spin-off activity occurs; (2) organizational studies that seek to explain spin-off activity in terms of university resources, incentives, and structures; (3) sociocultural development studies that explain spin-off activity in terms of culture and the rewards within the university; (4) studies that explain spin-offs in terms of external environmental influences; (5) studies that examine the development and performance of spin-offs; and (6) studies that seek to measure the economic impact of spin-off activity. Although these research domains clearly overlap considerably, we employ them as a method of classification to facilitate a discussion of the literature. This chapter is organized in the following manner. The first section provides an overview of the existing spin-off definitions in the academic entrepreneurship literature. The second section reviews earlier research and outlines six distinct research streams we have identified in this literature. The third section builds on our review of the literature by presenting a theoretical framework for the determinants and consequences of spin-off activity.
Article
This research examined the effects of three strategic process variables - strategic decision-making participativeness, strategy formation mode, and strategic learning from failure - on the entrepreneurial orientation (EO)-firm sales growth rate relationship. Results based on a sample of 110 manufacturing firms indicate a positive effect of EO on sales growth rate. Moreover, the relationship between EO and sales growth rate is more positive among firms that employ autocratic decision making and exhibit an emergent strategy formation process. Perceptions of proficiency at learning from strategic mistakes differentially affect the growth rates of firms at different ends of the EO continuum, but in manners inconsistent with the hypothesized relationship.
Chapter
The consequences of intragroup conflict for group processes and outcomes are myriad and complex. Understanding the nature and origins of intragroup conflict is therefore essential to effective group functioning, yet theory and research emergence of group-level conflict is lacking. The bulk of research on antecedents of intragroup conflict has focused on group-level predictors, downplaying the role of cross-level relationships involving individual factors and interpersonal processes. The core thesis of this chapter is that cross-level emergent processes lead to substantial and systematic variation in conflict perceptions within groups. Based on this premise, we explore two broad themes. First, we discuss how intragroup conflict varies in degree and form, exploring various configurations beyond consensus and dispersion models. Second, we address the processes by which different configurations of conflict emerge, namely: direct contact, indirect contact, and coalition formation. We conclude the chapter by discussing the implications of this approach for theory building and research.
Article
This analysis considers the impact of the top managers in an organization on the organization's outcomes, specifically strategic choices and performance levels. The focus is not on the chief executive alone, but rather on the entire top management team. Using a macro view, these organizational outcomes are perceived to be related to the values and cognitive bases of those high-power individuals in the organization. In developing the model, emphasis is on the background characteristics of the top managers as opposed to the psychological dimensions. A series of propositions that should be tested to support the upper echelons theory are presented. The topics of these propositions include age, functional track, other career experiences, education, socioeconomic roots, financial position, and group characteristics. The creation of this model is just the beginning of the work that is necessary to evaluate and understand the upper echelons theory. Further input is needed from areas such as the executive recruiting industry. Additionally, clinical and statistical studies are both necessary to fully develop this theory. (SRD)