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Taming unicorns: toward a new normal of responsible entrepreneurship

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Zankl, J 


While entrepreneurial disruption has proven a source of abundance by way of reforming markets and legacy institutions, it is also frequently characterized by the displacement of existing professions, industries, and livelihoods among other societal and ecological externalities. Prior research has often assumed that such reform and externalities are inevitable and inseparable aspects of entrepreneurial disruption. In this paper, however, we theorize the institutional foundations which have led to the current configuration of the field of startup activity and the global emphasis on “unicorn startups.” We subsequently theorize how these institutions might be reoriented toward a “new normal” focused on responsible venture creation, wherein the reformative aspects of disruption are prioritized while negative externalities are controlled. In doing so, we highlight interdependencies likely to both resist and emerge from such a transition toward responsible entrepreneurship, while proposing a process of societal-level governance reform needed to address those tensions. The resulting conceptual model contributes to the emerging literature on responsible governance of innovation by shifting the focus toward the systems change needed to overcome institutional-level constraints and transition toward a responsible entrepreneurship ideology. In so doing we also challenge prior theoretical conceptualizations regarding the relationship between disruption and entrepreneurship.



35 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services, 3507 Strategy, Management and Organisational Behaviour

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Academy of Management Review

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Academy of Management