The fourth presentation in our series of master’s theses contains three theses that all have implications for policy makers. The authors in this round all wanted to explore topics that could help entrepreneurs, teachers and facilitators to be better in their work. Through thorough explorations, deep insights and an external interest, the theses are both well written and of an influencing character. The theses are also written by students in the classes ‘13, ’14, and ’15, and as such illustrates the variation in topics that are found in the different consecutive years.
We hope you get inspired and enjoy the reading of this month! If you want to read more about our students’ prior theses, you can find theses from January, February and March here, here and here.
– The faculty of NSE
In 2018, NSE celebrates its fifteenth anniversary and as a part of the celebration, the faculty has gathered fifteen theses from prior NSE students, and intend to present three of these theses through the first semester of 2018. The theses presented will be a variety of academic prodigies, timely written investigations and theses not necessarily meaningful to the majority of the world, but with topics of profound importance to NSE’s students. Some will carry limited empirical foundation, nevertheless with impressive results. Others have a data collection that would cause professors to become envy, but where the students still handled the data in an impressive manner. Moreover, all of the above show the impressive span in the students’ theses.
In this series of presentations, we intend to provide you with an overview of what NSE students focus on, what outcomes the Master’s theses could give, and what the students themselves think of their theses – some of which written more than a decade ago! You will therefore find abstracts and interviews with the authors of the presented theses. If some of the works are of interest to you, the majority of the theses are available at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s library. If they are not available, we assume the authors would be happy to share some of their knowledge.
Policy design in practice: how ‘premium’ demand-side programs can bridge the financial gap
Alexander and Henrik of class 2014 wrote the first thesis of April. With a wish to write something that is also of use for practitioners, the two focused on an issue faced by actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As Alexander explains:
– We wanted to write a thesis that had a “practical” value beyond just “research”. When SIVA [governmental corporation for industry development] approached NSE, we saw an opportunity to write a thesis that might provide them with insights their start-up support schemes.
Thus, their thesis explores the best practises to be able to learn how we could improve our efforts in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and through a thorough investigation of different ecosystems abroad, the two were able to create a great result with deep insights. In addition, the two held a close relationship with SIVA, which also helped them in their work, as they explain:
– SIVA provided funding to get data from successful support schemes. We decided on gathering this data from Israeli and Finnish incubators. Our project thesis was a good foundation for the final master thesis, so we were able to go out and get data early in the process.
However, as all researchers know, the data gathering is only a small part of a study, as Henrik adds:
– Finally, we had to make sense of the data and link it to theory, which is easier said than done. I was a bit surprised by the analytical challenge involved with writing a solid qualitative thesis.
The result came out well despite their struggles, and the work gave the two invaluable insights in how support programs could help entrepreneurs in their efforts – both through their findings, but also through their data collection, as Alexander tells us:
– As an entrepreneur, it was extremely valuable to meet so many great entrepreneurs during our interviews.
– And in general, it seemed obvious that policies that dare to place significant bets on fewer cases are more successful than the ones that provided less resources to many, Henrik adds.
Their findings therefore give a clear recommendation for policy makers, and the two authors would have followed the same strategy again if possible, as this seems important to them. However, not only in terms of influencing others, but also in terms of their whole process. As Alexander ends our talk:
– I would not change a thing: same topic, same co-author, and same professor!
A statement Henrik also supports.
New potential high-growth firms, for example new technology-based ventures, represent the vast majority of economic growth and job creation caused by new firm creation. However, these firms often experience difficulties in raising a sufficient amount of capital, which justifies governmental intervention. We provide an overview of difficulties associated with the financing process of potential high-growth firms, and introduce a holistic, conceptual framework, illustrating the dynamics between supply-side and demand-side intervention in private capital markets. Furthermore, we study two demand-side programs that increase firm quality through value-adding activities provided by industry professionals. We examine how these programs (1) are able to pick winners at such early stage of a firm life cycle, (2) make winners through providing business support that reduces firm uncertainty, making them investor ready, and (3) sell winners through reducing information asymmetries in the investment process and trigger investments from private equity investors. Based on our insights, we revise our framework and provide policy makers a conceptual model that can help them identify constraining factors and design schemes thereafter. We argue that governmental programs need to be designed in a value chain of programs that address different stages in the life cycle of early stage companies. Furthermore, industry professionals need to be attracted and incentivized to participate in demand-side programs as they have the ability to identify and tackle crucial areas of firm uncertainty. Lastly, we argue that a significant amount of funding is necessary to produce significant contributions suggesting that policy makers should prioritize a small number of firms when designing programs with the purpose of fostering high-growth firms.
Optimizing Negotiation Outcome in a Business Environment: Development of a negotiation guide for entrepreneurs
Knut Martin, Sven and Magnus who graduated in 2013 wrote the eleventh paper in this series of Master’s theses. As they all worked in interesting start-ups at the same time, they wanted to explore a topic they thought could have value for themselves, but also for other entrepreneurs, and therefore wrote a thesis about negotiations – something all entrepreneurs would experience at some point.
– We wanted to do something in our thesis that we could use and utilize as entrepreneurs in our own start-ups, but also something we found genuinely interesting. We were all interested in the topic of negotiations, and identified that as skills we found important, but also a topic we had learned less about through our studies, Sven tells us.
They therefore sat a goal of creating a “how-to” paper for entrepreneurs who were attending in negotiations of all sorts. As Knut Martin adds:
– We thought that there was a need for a practical guide for entrepreneurs that were heading into negotiations: a guide that could educate these entrepreneurs in a short time to obtain a good result in the negotiations – for both parts.
In previous literature, many authors have written about different insights in the field of negotiations, and our three authors used a lot of time to go through this before creating their own view of the topic. In addition, they used ideas from different methods to create their guide, as Magnus explains:
– It was demanding to develop a practical guide to negotiations from all the data we had, but through several iterations between our empirical data and the theory, we felt that our work came out quite good, and hopefully it gave some value to the ones that have used it.
– We started early with the data collection, and could as such continuously investigate whether we had well enough empirical findings to create a thorough thesis. We also collected data from several sources; through interviews, tested the findings on students, and did searches through the literature, Sven adds.
Thus, the authors learned that to write and develop a framework or a guide is a demanding and very long process, but also that digging deep into a topic could give benefits beyond the theoretical findings. When asked to summarise their learning, they all agreed that their work had value for their careers:
– The best negotiators are not necessary the toughest people, but those that have prepared the best, ask the best questions, and that manage to find value for both parts. That is something I think we have brought with us into our work life, Sven states.
Regarding the topic for a second thesis, if they had to choose a topic today, their answer reflect their interest in understanding important occurrences in our society:
– Behavioural economics – to research why we do the things we do, and the choices we make. Quite inspired by Kahneman and Tversky!
The main objective of the current thesis is to provide inexperienced entrepreneurs with a negotiation Guide that will help them negotiate better and more efficiently. The aim of this guide is to provide an answer to the research question “How should the inexperienced entrepreneur prepare and execute negotiations in a business environment?”
The field of negotiation research is rather comprehensive and scattered, and many researchers claim that their frameworks can be used in all negotiation settings. Our assumption is that there is not one single negotiation approach for all entrepreneurial negotiation settings; one has to combine several of them in order to advise entrepreneurs in their daily business interactions. In order to investigate this we had to get an overview of how the most important negotiation approaches correlates and differ. Snowballing was used as the main method for finding relevant literature. The result of the literature study was a framework and is the authors attempt to describe which negotiation approaches that should be used in a given setting, as seen from a theoretical standpoint.
This initial framework functioned as the basis for the first revision of the negotiation Guide, which in turn was tested on the students from NSE. The experiment used role-plays in order to test the negotiation guide on the target group, and to get their feedback on the usability of the guide. The main takeaway from the experiment was that the entrepreneurs found the negotiation guide to be of great help for preparing.
In order to triangulate the data from the literature study, and to try to uncover new findings on how entrepreneurs should prepare for and execute negotiations, a series of interviews were conducted. The interviews were semi-structured, and served as an exploratory-inductive effort to be able to answer the research question. Thirteen interviews were conducted with experienced negotiators and successful entrepreneurs. The main takeaway from the interviews was the SPICE framework, which prescribes how to negotiate with suppliers, partners, investors, customers, and co-entrepreneurs. This framework was implemented in the first revision of the negotiation guide. The guide was then sent to expert negotiators. Their feedback resulted in the second revision of the negotiation guide, and this is the final product of our master thesis.
The answer to the research question is complex in nature, and the negotiation guide may be seen as a summary of it.
Does an action-based entrepreneurship education mean action heroes? – Impact assessing an action-based entrepreneurial venture creation program
The last thesis of April is focusing on entrepreneurship education, and the impact from such efforts. As there are many who have focused on entrepreneurship education in general, little effort has been invested in understanding venture creation programmes’ impact, and as such, Morten, who graduated in 2015, wanted to explore this important issue. Both of interest to Morten, but also of great interest for NSE’s faculty.
– I chose the topic in an attempt to understand how NSE influences students. NSE is unique in format, ambition and management as an educational programme, and you often see students go through drastic transformation during it. I was curious on what new knowledge had been accumulated in entrepreneurs during this programme, Morten tells us.
The importance of finding something which interest students is often stressed by faculty before one chooses a topic for one’s Master thesis, and Morten certainly did this, but he also tells us that one need to invest time and effort to obtain a good result:
– The process was incredibly fun, but also intense. After the literature review, I decided to use some established metrics and gather data from current students and alumni to form a quantitative measurement on how NSE influences students.
Thus, Morten’s focus was on the students in the programme – his peers, which made the results interesting for them as well. However, although Morten had extensive knowledge about the programme and had many ideas for his thesis, he also recognise that writing about a topic of interest could be challenging in narrowing the focus:
– “A paper can never be too narrow, but it can be too shallow” was something Professor Widding told me way too many times before I understood what he meant. Many, including myself, overestimate what is possible to do in a Master’s thesis and want to answer everything about a topic when writing. Focusing on narrowing the topic and discussion rather than being all over the place will save you.
In terms of the results from his research, Morten quickly realised that entrepreneurship education is an investment in the students in terms of long-term learning, or deep learning, which could be utilised at any time in the students’ careers.
– My biggest take-away was understanding that while NSE impacts students entrepreneurial self-efficacy, the real action starts after the program ends. The alumni base is incredibly active in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, being involved in both boards and start-ups. I see it as NSE investing some entrepreneurial capital in its students, which can be used by them immediately upon graduation or after they get bored of 5 years in consulting and want to feel alive again.
This finding is also something that influences Morten’s answer when we asked him about what he would have written about if he wrote a second thesis:
– Impact from milestone-based early-stage investments on technology-based start-ups would be fun to work with. Additionally, doing a more in-depth or longitudinal study within the same topic as my thesis would also be very interesting!
Entrepreneurial venture creation programs (VCP) stand out from traditional entrepreneurial education programs with its high focus on action-based activity and learning through venture creation. The high demand for resources needed to operate VCPs is forcing program directors to frequently have to prove program relevance and impact to stakeholders. While researchers have done well on unveiling program obstacles and design, little research has been done on how students and graduates are affected by a VCP. Through establishing an impact assessment scale, measuring entrepreneurial self-efficacy (ESE), entrepreneurial intentions and entrepreneurial impact, then testing it on students and graduates from a VCP, this study takes an important step towards enhancing our understanding of a VCP’s impact. In particular, the findings in this thesis have implications for the VCP program directors and policy makers as the results show specific areas of improvement and theoretically grounded effects of the programs. In addition, future program evaluations are suggested to perceive VCPs as an arena for testing the robustness of entrepreneurial intentions, rather than a mechanism for increasing intentions.