An investigation into the role of serendipity, effectuation, and entrepreneurial marketing in fast-growth entrepreneurial firms
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis investigates the role of serendipity, effectuation, and entrepreneurial marketing in fast-growth entrepreneurial firms. Using a qualitative paradigm, multiple case studies and cross-country approaches, the study aims to explore the interrelationships among these constructs and answer the main research question relating to their contribution to fast growth. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty fast-growth firms in New Zealand and Iran from a range of sectors, and causal mapping method was used to map out the growth trajectory of each firm. Causal maps enable the researcher to find in what manner the firms achieved fast growth and what factors contributed to their growth. The results suggest that serendipity is a precursor to fast growth and occurs generally at the start of a growth process. Serendipity is likely to take place at any stage of a firm life cycle, but more likely at the early stage of formation, alongside networks, pure luck, perseverance, environment and high-quality products and services. In addition to reviewing the three patterns of serendipity that are well-known in accidental scientific discoveries, we identify and introduce “Entrepreneurial Serendipity” as another distinctive pattern in entrepreneurship, whereby entrepreneurs look for any opportunity to start a business and explore an appropriate opportunity that comes along. Further analyses illustrate that entrepreneurs believe in the occurrence of serendipity in their day-to-day business; however, it indirectly contributes to fast growth mediated by two important elements: effectual thinking and entrepreneurial marketing. The causal maps demonstrate that the combination of effectuation and entrepreneurial marketing directly and indirectly lead to fast growth. A majority of fast-growth firms start business effectuatively, often with limited resources and relying on whatever available means they possess, but over time, they shift to causation logic with more planning and strategic decisions. Starting from an effectuation base, the participants had an entrepreneurial mindset at the outset and used specific tactics, such as an adapted marketing mix, relying on networks, innovation, ensuring a presence in the market, pro-activeness, and market intelligence through personal observation. These entrepreneurial marketing practices have led to fast growth and were widely employed by entrepreneurs, irrespective of firm size and age. The thesis sheds some light on how fast-growth firms achieve considerable growth by looking at the relationship of serendipitous opportunity exploration and effectuative exploitation using entrepreneurial marketing. It contributes to the literature on serendipity and its development in entrepreneurship, and identifies serendipitous sources of opportunity in fast growing firms. The study confirms that effectuation logic and entrepreneurial marketing are instruments by which entrepreneurs exploit new opportunities and market products or services. Entrepreneurs from both New Zealand and Iran share similar growth trajectories, however, some Iranian entrepreneurs believe that spiritual values are important in exploring new opportunities and achieving fast growth. Finally, the study confirms that growth may start with a serendipitous exploration and continues with effectuation logic and entrepreneurial marketing.