The impact of entrepreneurial team experience on the speed of new venture internationalization

  • Theodoros Mertzanis
  • Birgit Hagen
Keywords: Internationalization; Upper-Echelon-Theory; entrepreneurial team; international experience; born global; international new venture


Frame of the research: The international experience and orientation of the entrepreneur are one of the dominant explanations for early and accelerated new venture internationalization. We put this explanation to test by investigating the impact of multiple, nuanced dimensions of prior experience on the speed of reaching significant international sales and by extending the view from the individual to that of the team.

Purpose of the paper: International entrepreneurship studies have predominantly focused on the individual’s role in international expansion, neglecting the overall team experience and knowledge. This study relates a variety of experience dimensions that characterize the team to the speed of reaching significant foreign sales.

Methodology: Upper Echelon theory is transferred to the context of the new, small firm and used to theorize the impact of entrepreneurial team experience on the venture’s speed to reaching significant export intensity. Special attention is paid to the many facets of experiential knowledge. An OLS regression is employed on a set of 98 Italian and German new ventures.

Results: Results of the OLS regression confirm the importance of the teams’ industry experience, while, surprisingly, international experience exerts a significant but negative effect on the speed required to reach significant foreign sales. Experience in import-export related functions and gained in MNEs, as well as foreign language competence, do not show significant impact.

Research limitations: The limited sample size does not allow to single out all experience variables.

Practical implications: Practitioners and entrepreneurs who pursue fast international expansion get insight into the ‘ideal’ composition of the team.

Originality of the paper: To the best of our knowledge, this paper is the first to empirically analyze the impact of the many dimensions of prior team experience on the speed of internationalization.


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