Doctoral candidate Noah Samuel successfully defended his dissertation, "Socio-Physical Characteristics Influencing Collaboration Among Startup Firms in Four Business Incubators," on March 16. His committee included Associate Professor Kate Williams (chair); Professor Michael Twidale; Sonali Shah, associate professor of business administration in the Gies College of Business; and Clara Chu, director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs and Mortenson Distinguished Professor.
Abstract: This study considered the socio-physical characteristics influencing collaboration among startup firms in four business incubators. Previous studies have elaborated on how collaboration fosters innovation. However, how business incubators promote collaboration among startup firms remains a subject for exploration. I situated the incubator communities as social systems following Roger's (2003) conception of a social system and its impact on innovation. By interviewing 44 founders or co-founders and observing interactions within the four incubators, the study shows that business incubators' social and physical characteristics, namely corporate membership, space configuration, informal and formal networking, industry focus, and support structure, significantly influence collaboration. I observed nine typologies of collaboration. They include actual collaboration, division of labor, expanded insights, advising, information seeking, mutual optimism, mutual telling, one-way information transfer, and strategic partnership. I introduced intentional sociality as an explanatory model for how business incubators can promote collaboration among startup firms. Intentional sociality seeks purposeful or deliberate social relations. It emphasizes breadth and depth, but with more emphasis on the depth of relationships.