It's impossible to go it alone

New research from Kim and Todd Saxton identifies the "X Factor" in successful venture ecosystems

Popular press and prior academic research are fascinated with founders, focusing most attention on entrepreneurs themselves. We love to talk about the maverick founder who breaks all the rules and goes it alone in a quest for disruption. But little attention has been paid to the other key players that make for a successful venture community, and the essential role they play in lubricating the wheels of a vibrant ecosystem.

In an article titled “Venture Advocate Behaviors and the Emerging Enterprise” recently published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Kelley Indianapolis professors Todd and Kim Saxton, along with their colleague Curtis Wesley of the University of Houston, explore the importance of and motivations for the “Venture Advocates” who help startups move forward.

Kim Saxton notes that new ventures face uncertainty on a number of fronts – developing the technology and product offering, identifying the right market segment and finding customers, recruiting talent and funding their efforts.

“Many questions related to these challenges cannot be addressed by a solo entrepreneur or even a deep, veteran founding team,” says Kim Saxton, who is a clinical associate professor of marketing. “Particularly in the early stages, entrepreneurs need input and feedback from knowledgeable supporters and advocates who can also connect them to additional help and funding. As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t be just shopping for money. You should actually be shopping for help. Here’s where to look for help; here are the people who are going to help you, and here is how you solicit their assistance.”

Why do people help entrepreneurs through this journey? Who engages in these close encounters of the entrepreneurial kind, and why do they provide assistance? The Saxtons’ article addresses these questions and reveals that a norm or shared value of reciprocity plays a key role.

The Saxtons’ work is the first academic research that directly explores the role of supporting players in the venture community.