Technology strategy and new venture performance: A study of corporate-sponsored and independent biotechnology ventures

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New ventures, companies eight years or younger, play a major role in the development of an emerging, high-technology industry. Corporate-sponsored new ventures (those supported by an established corporation) and independent ventures (those founded by independent entrepreneurs) frequently battle for industry leadership and financial success. Whereas both venture types use technology to achieve financial and market success, little is known about the differences in their technology strategies. Technology strategy is the plan that guides a new venture's decisions on the development and use of technological capabilities. This strategy covers six major areas. The first is selecting the pioneering posture, where a venture decides whether or not be among the industry's first companies to introduce new products (technologies) to the market. The second is determining the number of products to be introduced to the market. The third is choosing the extent of a venture's use of internal and external R&D sources. Internal sources usually refer to in-house R&D activities. External sources may include purchasing or licensing of technology from other companies, or joining strategic alliances to acquire that technology. The fourth is deciding the level of R&D spending. The fifth is selecting the combination (portfolio) of applied and basic research projects. Whereas basic R&D advances science, applied R&D leads to new products and technologies. The sixth, and final, dimension is the venture's use of patenting to protect any competitive advantages it might gain from its R&D activities. This article reports the results of a study that explored the differences in the technology strategies and performance of corporate and independent ventures. The biotechnology industry was chosen to test the study's hypotheses, using 112 ventures. Seven of the study's hypotheses focused on the potential variations in technology strategy between corporate and independent ventures. Independent ventures (IVs) were expected to surpass corporate ventures (CVs) in pioneering new products (technologies), using internal R&D, and emphasizing applied R&D. CVs were expected to surpass IVs in introducing new products, using external R&D sources, spending on R&D, and patenting. The study's remaining three hypotheses covered possible variations in new venture performance (NVP) and their sources. The results showed that IVs focused more on pioneering, pursued a more applied R&D portfolio, and emphasized internal R&D more than CVs. CVs utilized external technology sources, spent more heavily on R&D, stressed basic R&D, and used patenting more intensively than IVs. These results were consistent with the hypotheses. However, contrary to expectations, there were no significant differences between CVs and IVs in the frequency of new product introductions, probably because most ventures were at the invention, rather than the commercialization, stage. The results on the NVP of CVs and IVs were counter to expectations. IVs outperformed CVs, probably because of the high motivation of the IV owners who reaped the rewards of growth and profitability. Also, whereas CVs may have greater access to the resources of their sponsors, political conflicts and rigid corporate controls might have reduced their ability to achieve competitive advantages. The results also indicated that CVs and IVs appeared to gain competitive advantages from different technological choices. Pioneering, a focus on applied R&D, and extensive use of the internal R&D sources were also positively associated with the performance of IVs. Heavy R&D spending, the use of both internal and external R&D sources, frequent product introductions, and patenting were positively associated with the performance of CVs. Finding that technology strategies significantly impacted NVP should encourage executives to consider pursuing a formal technology strategy. Likewise, the finding that different dimensions of technology strategy influenced the performance of CVs and IVs in different ways has practical implications. CV managers can learn from their higher performing IV rivals. Also, because established companies frequently acquire IVs, information about their technology strategies can be valuable in assimilating the acquired ventures. Overall, the results show that technology strategy is an important factor in enhancing new venture performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-321
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Business Venturing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1996


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