Network brokers or hit makers? Analyzing the influence of incubation on start-up investments

Abstract

Incubators are a prominent way to support technology based start-ups. Yet, it remains unclear to what extent these incubators enhance start-up performance, nor is it known through which mechanisms this would occur. In this paper we test two mechanisms to explain the relationship between incubation and the amount of investments raised by early stage start-ups as performance measure. The ‘hit maker’ mechanism refers to beneficial effects of the direct transfer of resources and organizational or business knowledge from the incubator to the start-up. The ‘network broker’ mechanism refers to the benefits that start-ups enjoy from being connected to external funding sources through the incubator’s networks. We test which of these mechanisms contribute to the performance of early stage start-ups. Our data comes from a unique survey from 935 entrepreneurs with early-stage technology based start-ups in Western Europe and North America. We find that incubators have a positive effect on (1) the amount of funding that start-ups attract and (2) the ability of start-ups to attract funding from formal investors and banks. Moreover, our results provide evidence for the network broker mechanism, but not for the hit maker mechanism.

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