Enablers of exit through trade sale: the case of early-stage research-based spin-offs

Marius Tuft Mathisen, Raj Krishnan Shankar, Øystein Widding, Einar Rasmussen, Alexander McKelvie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A significant share of new technology-based ventures exit through trade sale at an early stage of firm development. While trade sale is an important exit route for entrepreneurs and investors, and a potential source of new innovations and technology for acquiring firms, we have limited knowledge about the factors that help to effectively achieve a trade sale. We employ a unique dataset tracking the population of research-based spin-offs in Norway and conduct in-depth case studies of nine trade sales. Building on 52 interviews and other secondary data, we inductively develop propositions outlining three dimensions that lead to a successful trade sale—potential synergies, credible alternatives, and uncertainty reduction. We show that these enablers of trade sales are not only linked to the focal venture but also related to the idiosyncratic dyad with the buyer, reflecting both the potential for and likelihood of trade sale. Consequently, our study contributes to the literatures on entrepreneurial exit and academic entrepreneurship by mapping the important but under-explored area of trade sale as an exit mode. Plain English SummaryPotential synergies and credible alternatives increase the potential of a research-based spin-offs’ trade sale, but the likelihood of a trade sale depends on how uncertainty reduction is managed. A trade sale is an important exit route for entrepreneurs and investors, and a potential source of new innovations and technology for acquiring firms. Research-based spin-offs are often acquired during their early stages of development by large corporations. We track the population of Norwegian research-based spin-offs and study nine trade sales in depth. Our findings concerning the importance of synergy potential, credible alternatives, and uncertainty reduction have implications for both academic entrepreneurs and potential buyers for how they can complete an exit through trade sale. Since scientific research is critical for society, our findings have implications for policymakers in the form of interesting ideas for influencing trade sales, a potentially important route for commercialization of scientific research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSmall Business Economics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Academic entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurial exit
  • New venture acquisitions
  • Research-based spin-offs
  • Science commercialization
  • Trade sale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics

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