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Spin-offs should interact with clients as soon as possible (Canal Superior)

Sérgio Costa, researcher at INESC TEC, won the Heizer Award 2015, one of the most important awards in the area of entrepreneurship, with a study where he defends that the best strategy for spin-offs to succeed is an early interaction with clients.

Early stage spin-offs should «interact with companies as soon as possible with potential clients, even before the company is registered», defends Sérgio Costa. This is the conclusion that earned the INESC TEC researcher the Heizer Best Dissertation Award, given by the Academy of Management’s Entrepreneurship Division. This is one of the most important awards in the world in the area of entrepreneurship.

The Portuguese researcher was one of three finalists. In this PhD thesis, he addresses the evolution of business models in university spin-offs. For the first time, the study focused on the relationship between the frequency with which the business model is changed, and variables such as the degree of involvement of entrepreneurs, and the knowledge on market, management and launching of companies.

«The business models of the companies I analysed have all changed, more than once, in a 12 month period. For that reason, I would say that change is inevitable, especially in the early stages, in which the business idea is designed and the company is launched», the researcher explains to Canal Superior.

In Sérgio Costa’s opinion, these changes are caused by «the lack of financial or human resources, plans for growth in the same market or geographical expansion, changes during the product development and testing, feedback resulting from interactions with potential clients, the need for new partners to develop a product, production and/or distribution, unexpected exogenous events, changes in regulation, and changes in competition», among others.

The companies that changed the least, according to the study conducted by the professor, were those «whose founding teams had a high degree of management and market knowledge», as well as «those who are experienced in entrepreneurship».

These companies also «performed better», which allowed the researcher to conclude that «high performance companies tend to interact sooner, even before they are launched, and more extensively with various stakeholders to change their business models.»

The study, titled «Business Model Change in Early-Stage University Spin-Offs», involved eight spin-offs of the University of Strathclyde. Throughout 12 months, Sérgio Costa conducted about 98 interviews in order to understand the change mechanisms in business models, and how these mechanisms affect the company’s performance.

In the future, the researcher wants to continue the study, broadening the sample with different universities and geographies. «INESC TEC is developing a database with the entire population of Portuguese spin-offs. This initiative is being articulated with existing databases in Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom, the researcher concludes.

Canal Superior, 13 August 2015

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