Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Announces Research Competition Winners

In an effort to showcase the leading edge entrepreneurship research being conducted within the College of Business at the University of Tennessee, the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) recently held its first research competition. The goal of the competition was to provide additional funding to research aimed at improving the success rate of entrepreneurs and aiding the decision making of those who fund entrepreneurial ventures.

The competition was open to faculty and doctoral students. Entrants competed in four categories, two for doctoral students as lead authors and two for faculty as lead authors.  For each group, one set of awards focused on research proposals while the other set rewarded working papers not quite ready to be submitted to top tier journals.  Doctoral students and faculty members from finance, marketing and supply chain, and management received cash prizes to help them complete their research.  Six individuals were awarded a total of $4,000.  Five of these individuals are doctoral students working with faculty here or elsewhere.

“We were delighted to fund 70% of the submitted proposals and glad to see the engagement across three departments in entrepreneurship research,” said Rhonda Reger, Director of Research for ACEI.  Fourteen unique individuals are represented in the winning entries, suggesting a high level of interest among scholars at UT in helping entrepreneurs become more successful.  “We will hold the competition again in the spring, and we hope for even wider engagement across the college, because the factors that lead to success in entrepreneurship are complex and require study from multiple disciplines,” Reger said.

The Outstanding Entrepreneurship or Innovation Research Doctoral Student Proposal carries an award of $500.  The winners are Nawar Chaker (Marketing) and Ernie Cadotte (Marketing) for Split Seconds: Examining Thin Slicing in Business Plan PresentationsMatthew B. Shaner, (Marketing), with his dissertation committee (Charlie Noble, Neeraj Bharadwaj, and Stephanie Noble, all from Marketing, and Rhonda Reger, from Management) for Managing the Cocreation of Innovation: The Influence of Team Regulatory Style and Reflexivity on Customer Idea Selection and Innovation OutcomesNastaran Simarasl (Organizations & Strategy) and Anne Smith (Management) for Female Entrepreneurs’ Social Capital: Distressed vs. Prolific Environments and Jason A. Strickling (Organizations & Strategy) and Rhonda K. Reger (Management) for Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development:  A Media Effects Perspective.

The Best Doctoral Student Working Paper In Entrepreneurship or Innovation carries a $1,000 award for the first author.  This year’s winner is Laura D’Oria (Organization & Strategy) with Pietro Mazzola, IULM University and Franz Kellermanns, UNC-Charlotte forEntrepreneurial Orientation: The Effect of Intention and Behavior on Performance.

The Outstanding Entrepreneurship or Innovation Research Faculty Proposal carries an award of $1,000.  This year’s winner is Ramon P. DeGennaro (Finance) for Are Angel Investors Too Eager to Get Back in the Game?

The Best Faculty Working Paper In Entrepreneurship or Innovation Award carries a $3,000 award to the first author.  No papers were submitted to this category this year.

The judges included Reger, Lynn Youngs, ACEI Executive Director, and David Williams, ACEI affiliated faculty.  Reger and Williams recused themselves on voting for projects in which they were involved, and Youngs evaluated projects in terms of their practical relevance to entrepreneurs.

The competition will be held again in the spring semester with awards announced by June.

Among the winners this year are two entries that examine factors that influence angel investors in early stage venture funding decisions.  Chaker and Cadotte propose to study factors within the actual “pitch” to angel investors, while DeGennaro will continue his research on the investing behavior of angel investors by examining whether a prior winning or losing investment affects evaluation of subsequent investment opportunities.

Because the formal venture capital industry is not well developed in Tennessee, angel investor funding is particularly important to startups in the state.  Angel investors fill the gap between self, family and friend funding and formal institutional funding from venture capitalists, banks and other lenders.  They are typically high net worth individuals who have earned over $200,000 in each of the last three years and who have over $1 million in net worth excluding their residence.  Angel investing is a way for these individuals to diversify their portfolio of holdings.  Many angel investors are also successful entrepreneurs themselves who want to help nascent entrepreneurs while seeking a positive return five to seven years after investing.

Three of the winning entries examine the effects of the environment on innovation and entrepreneurship.  Shaner and his colleagues examine a new form of innovation, dubbed cocreation, in which companies use virtual communities of customers to help them develop new products.  “Companies like Legos use cocreation to create products customers want to buy increasing the likelihood of success,” explained Shaner.  Customer-designers typically submit new product ideas on websites where other customers vote the idea up or down.  Those that earn enough endorsements on the website are submitted to a company new product development team who make the final decision about bringing the product to market.

Strickling and Reger propose to study real world communities that are devoting significant public and private money to increase the level of high potential entrepreneurship in their area.  “We know technology and other high potential entrepreneurship is the engine of job creation and economic development in the U.S.  What we don’t know is what works and what doesn’t work in terms of government and NGO support for entrepreneurs to increase the rate of successful high potential entrepreneurship in a community,” said Reger.  This study will help communities make better decisions to earn higher returns on their economic development dollars.

Simarasl and Smith’s study will shed light on the experiences of women entrepreneurs in counties of Appalachia, a distressed environment, and in Atlanta, one of the top ten cities for women entrepreneurs in the U.S. Findings from this research in the distressed environment in comparison with that of a prolific environment are expected to provide both theoretical and practical implications for development of women entrepreneurs in distressed areas, and to provide data to policy makers to more wisely invest in useful types of support.

Finally, D’Oria and colleagues examine an important question in entrepreneurship research:  what is the relationship between saying you want to be an entrepreneur (intentions) and actually taking steps to become an entrepreneur (behavior) and becoming successful (performance)?  Prior research has examined many factors that impact entrepreneurial intentions, partly because intentions are relatively easy to study through surveys.  Who follows through on those intentions and why are some successful and others not are equally important questions. Because these are harder questions to study, less research has focused on them.  Not all entrepreneurs found new companies, some work within existing companies helping them expand into new markets, serve new customers, and innovate new products. D’Oria, a native Italian in the O&S doctoral program, and her colleagues use a novel dataset of Italian firms to add to our understanding of the relationships between entrepreneurial intentions, behavior, and performance in public firms.


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