UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome Douglas Hannah, Boston University, to host a research seminar discussing: “Inverse” founding and alternative paths of entrepreneurial organizing.
A central concern in entrepreneurship research is how founders recognise opportunities and organize to capture them. Prior work highlights the role of information asymmetries derived from prior experience and the identification of opportunities as key inputs in the subsequent venture formation process. Yet, is this the only way in which entrepreneurs launch ventures? To address this question, we conducted a field study of 72 de novo entrepreneurial organisations founded in the U.S. in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Surprisingly, less than half of our sample aligns with extant depictions of the entrepreneurial process. By tracing the sequence of steps undertaken by each venture, we identify three distinct “pathways” by which founders recognise opportunities and organise to capture them. Two align with prior research, the third is a novel sequence we term the inverse founding path. We first trace how these three paths unfold over time. We then unpack how the differences between them shape key strategic outcomes such as organisational structure, growth patterns, strategic drift, and longevity. Overall, this study contributes to research on entrepreneurial processes and user innovation, and it carries important implications for research on entrepreneurship and communities.