Five practical recommendations for your next review

An important part of the work we do as researchers is reviewing. But reviewing conference abstracts is different from reviewing full papers since you have to judge a researcher’s work based solely on a summary of about 1000 words. That’s quite a challenge! So how can we do this effectively? In this article, I put together five practical recommendations for your next review of a conference abstract – in particular of course with the RENT conference in mind.

I am sharing with you my expertise and experience as a reviewer, who was selected as one of the best reviewers at the RENT in 2019. Additionally, I invited three of my colleagues who were awarded as best reviewers at the RENT as well to share their insights. So now you are getting five practical recommendations from four best reviewers – to step up your reviewing game for the RENT and other conferences!

Abstracts represent our work and ideas – those ideas that still need to grow and fully develop. As reviewers, we can help our colleagues with this challenge! (Photo by Singkham at Pexels)
  1. Be constructive and respectful

Some people believe that a good review needs to be as critical as possible. While I am all in favour of critical perspectives, each review should offer exactly that: perspectives. My colleague Dagmar sums up our role as reviewers nicely:

I feel that as a reviewer, it is your role to help the authors write the best version of their paper, by providing them with insights that you may have that they themselves have maybe not yet realized. It is thus your responsibility to help them forward [and] to be constructive: your goal is to aid people, not to tear them down. They have put in effort in their work and thus you are responsible for returning this favour. (Dagmar Ylva Hattenberg)

In a small research community such as the ECSB you are likely to meet the person whose work you have reviewed again. Hence, we recommend that we should all definitely return this favour. What I always do is I read the review again after some time has passed, and then ask myself: If I met the author(s) at RENT and had to deliver my review directly to them, would it feel right? If so, you have probably written a constructive review.

  1. Be specific and transparent

It’s sometimes the small details that make a review really helpful for the authors. If you give references, provide the full references so that people can actually find it. Give the authors some insight into why you think that a specific point is problematic or what kind of flaw there is in the theoretical framework. And, of course, be specific about the paper that you have in front of you not what you would write yourself instead

This last point is especially important for reviewing conference abstracts, because abstracts typically leave the space to imagine a variety of different storylines for full papers. If you feel that it is helpful for the authors, point them towards the various possibilities they have to further develop their paper. However, most of your comments should clearly relate to the abstract right in front of you.

  1. Structure your process

Let’s see how people are actually doing this and how it works for them when they have the usual 4-6 abstracts to review for the RENT. My colleague Margo takes about an hour for each abstract and structures her process like this:

  1. Read the abstract
  2. Read the abstract again, and make notes
  3. Collect the notes into comprehensive themes for feedback
  4. Write a few thematic feedback points
  5. Read the written review again and check the tone and understandability
    (Margo Enthoven)

Now, the actual process can of course look a bit different for everyone. Most of us agreed that we read all the abstracts first, and then each one individually in more depth. There is no perfect process, but having a structure makes your process, and hence your reviews, better.

  1. Focus on key points

There are always a lot of things you can comment on in conference abstracts, because a lot of information is, of course, still missing. However, avoid writing reviews that are longer than the actual abstract. For me, a good rule of thumb is to focus on the three key points that I want the authors to get from my review. These are typically points that relate to the overall storyline, the expected contribution and the possible further directions for a paper. These major points are what I focus on in my reviews. Your review does not need to cover every aspect of the abstract, but it should open up developmental perspectives for the authors and help them to realize the potential of their work.

  1. Judge potential in a fair way

Regarding a fair judgement, one of the most challenging things about reviewing abstracts is that you are not judging the complete work, but you mostly judge potential. My colleague Sanna describes it like this:

The papers are in different stages. Sometimes, particularly in early-stage papers, it can be difficult to understand the idea and overall scientific value of the paper. Then it simply requires time to "digest" the paper. It might be that the paper cannot be accepted for the conference but I still try to provide good comments for the future development. (Sanna Ilonen) 

As a reviewer, I very much agree that it takes time to digest certain papers, especially if they feel a bit unfamiliar or are not so closely related to what you normally work on. Now to actually judge potential, a key point is to reflect: Will this paper be developed into a full paper by the expected deadline? If it is presented at RENT: will my fellow colleagues be excited about its presentation? Of course, sometimes the answer to this is “no”. Hence, in order to keep up the quality of a conference, you will sometimes recommend that an abstract won’t be accepted. That might feel difficult, but it is just as important for a research community than an enthusiastic acceptance.

Now back to the second part of what Sanna said: even if an abstract cannot be accepted, you can help the authors with the future development of the work. Your judgement call will not always be considered fair or be shared by the other reviewers, but if the authors understand why their work has been declined and they have some guidance how to proceed, they will experience this as a fair process – one that shows respect for your fellow researchers’ work.

These are 5 simple recommendations to guide you through your reviewing process. On behalf of the ECSB: thank you for your dedication as reviewers to developing our supportive community. If you want to discuss further, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter!

Author: Verena Meyer, Leuphana University of Lüneburg; ECSB Country Vice-President for Germany

Recap: Developing Responsible and Sustainable Innovations in Entrepreneurship Education

As entrepreneurship scholars and educators, we typically use project seminars to teach students about entrepreneurship. During those project seminars we let the students choose what exactly they want to work on. Projects they work on range from apps that want to enable consumers to save time when grocery shopping or be able to follow a healthy vegan diet, to concepts such as cafés to share skills or strengthen community-building. This shows that the concepts that the students develop often incorporate thoughts on sustainability. Nonetheless, these concepts often lack an overall and thorough reflection of the possible negative and positive sustainable outcomes. So how could we get these students to develop holistic sustainable ideas and critically assess the impact of their innovations?

For the latest Professional Development Workshop, hosted by ECSB, I teamed up with two sustainability scholars, Flavio Pinheiro Martins and Yasmin Azim Zadeh, to tackle this challenge. The idea to this workshop was born at a conference about responsible innovation, that took place last year. For me, as an entrepreneurship scholar who had mainly attended entrepreneurship conferences, this was a new community and an unknown discourse – but one which I felt greatly inspired by. As someone facilitating innovation processes, I was constantly wondering how to support the development of sustainable ideas. Responsible innovation seems to be one promising answer to this. Since this conference, Flavio and I have been working on the idea of bringing together sustainability and entrepreneurship, especially in education.

In the sandbox, virtual representation and haptic experience are thought together to combine perspectives ©Leuphana/Patrizia Jäger

At this point, Yasmin and I would like to share our experiences working in a project called ‘Sandbox Innovation Process’ at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, which aims to foster open innovation to tackle regional challenges. This project builds innovation communities within a framework of an open innovation process. We leverage this process by creating a basis of trust through various team building activities and repeated feedback sessions. The main chance and the main challenge in this process is the heterogeneity of its participants: students, pensioners, entrepreneurs, citizens – all from the same region, but with different outlooks and perspectives. This inclusion of perspectives is one of the key points in a process of responsible innovation.

When we look at entrepreneurial projects from a lens of responsible innovation, we can teach our students not only about entrepreneurship, but also about sustainability. In our Professional Development Workshop, we aimed to work explicitly with a concept of sustainability. For this, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) presented a good framework to get started. As educators, we appreciate the great material that is freely available and the easy access for our participants to this concept. While the SDGs are one way to engage with sustainability, we felt that by asking participants how their ideas related to the SDGs (in negative and positive ways) was indeed a good starting point for reflection. This reflexivity is again a key point towards responsible innovation, which strives towards making a positive impact in society.

Of course, we learned a lot from our participants as well. One question was of particular interest and intensely discussed: how can we be part of the solution if we are also part of the problem? The educator who brought this up felt that she was part of the generation which is responsible for the current mess that is our planet. While many of us could well relate to this feeling, a key point from the other participants was that this should not stop us. Especially if we are part of the problem, it is our responsibility to become part of the solution. As educators, we can have a great influence by supporting our students in making a difference. Strengthening responsible innovation in entrepreneurship education means increasing our positive impact in society. This workshop, hopefully, provided a small starting point into this direction – and we would love to discuss further, so join us for a discussion on ResearchGate!

Further information:

  • The project Sandbox Innovation Process is funded by the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) and the federal state of Lower Saxony and situated at the Leuphana University’s Cooperation Service with Prof. Markus Reihlen as the scientific project leader. More information: (in German)
  • SDGs and Entrepreneurship: Horne, J., Recker, M., Michelfelder, I., Jay, J., & Kratzer, J. (2020). Exploring entrepreneurship related to the sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 242, 118052.
  • Responsible Innovation: Stilgoe, J., Owen, R., & Macnaghten, P. (2013). Developing a framework for responsible innovation. Research policy42(9), 1568-1580.

Author: Verena Meyer, Leuphana University of Lüneburg with Flavio Pinheiro Martins, University of Sao Paulo, and Yasmin Azim Zadeh, Leuphana University of Lüneburg

Experiences on RENT Conferences

As a young researcher, you always look for a scientific community. At the RENT conference and within ECSB, I think I have found mine. Last week I was at the RENT conference at the ESCP Business School in Berlin – this was my 4th time at the RENT conference.

Graffiti at a school in Berlin, about learning and growth – favourite quote: “If I were you, I would like to be me!”

It is time to look back:

  1. The RENT was my first conference ever – to participate and to do a presentation (on the 1st day, in the 1st session, as the 1st presenter… talk about a jump into cold water!)
  2. The community made me feel very welcome, even when I was still a Master’s student (thanks to Silke Tegtmeier for opening up this opportunity for me so early!)
  3. Gave me a chance to travel on my own to Antwerp, Lund, and Toledo (and for completeness: Berlin), which made my mum worry and me happy about the opportunity
  4. Made me a better researcher – through great and always (!) constructive feedback for my own work, but also through a lot of impulses and interesting people
  5. Made me a better reviewer and provider of feedback – which was particularly appreciated this year when I got nominated as best reviewer with two senior colleagues: Friederike Welter and Gry Agnete Alsos, whose work I greatly admire. Now I have a nice certificate, sparkling wine and a lot of motivation to continue reviewing.

A picture from the gala dinner and the award ceremony – from left to right: Sophia Marie Braun, Silke Tegtmeier, Verena Meyer, Friederike Welter, Gry Agnete Alsos, and René Mauer

It feels great to be taken seriously as a young researcher and grow within a community!

Author: Verena Meyer, Leuphana University of Lüneburg

This post appeared first on LinkedIn, feel free to contact Verena to share experiences-

8th International ENTIME Conference

The Faculty of Management and Economics of Gdansk University of Technology during two days (11-12 April 2019) hosted over 80 participants at the 8th International ENTIME Conference. Among them were speakers from 12 countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Germany, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy and Ukraine) representing 37 different institutions. The main purpose of the conference was to review scientific research on entrepreneurship and business activities and provide useful workshops for PhD students and early career researchers. This entrepreneurship conference was also designed to bring together leading-edge views of academic scholars and insightful practitioners from the fields of international business and small business/entrepreneurship, in order to examine challenges and risks that firms have to face and deal with in a modern economy. The event was a great opportunity to share knowledge and experience of entrepreneurial research and studies from all over the world.

The conference was opened by prof. Piotr Dominiak, Vice-Rector for internationalization and innovation, and dr hab. Julita Wasilczuk, prof. Associate. GUT, Dean of the Faculty of Management and Economics GUT.

– In this year’s edition we hosted many participants not only from various universities from Poland but also from abroad. We are happy with such diversity. We also enjoy very good opinions about the conference itself. I think that the event was indeed a good place to exchange views, present research results, learn about various scientific approaches to the proposed topics, and there were a lot of them and touched the topic of modern entrepreneurship from many perspectives, summarizes Dr. Magdalena Popowska, coordinator of the eighth edition of the ENTIME conference.

Special guests – prof. Wojciech Czakon from the Jagiellonian University, presenting a lecture entitled “A behavioral perspective on network embeddedness” and prof. Tomasz Mickiewicz from Ashton University presenting the lecture entitled “Entrepreneurship as Trust.”

ENTIME image_blog

The conference was divided into seven thematic panels, in which areas were discussed, including ties between enterprises, networks and social capital; entrepreneurial responsibility; technology, innovation and internationalization of enterprises; succession in family businesses; qualitative and quantitative methods of researching entrepreneurship as well as social economy and social entrepreneurship.

The conference panels were followed by a workshop  entitled “Writing a good abstract for RENT” led by the conference partner European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB) and a lecture entitled “Succession challenges – Workshop with entrepreneurs” led by the Training and Advisory Group ODiTK and Business Solutions.

The conference partners were: ECSB and the National Bank of Poland

The conference was covered by the Honorary Patronage:

Rector of the Gdansk University of Technology; Marshal of the Pomeranian Voivodeship; The President of the City of Gdansk; Dean of the Faculty of Management and Economics of GUT; Pomeranian employers; The Gdansk Business Club; Polish Investment Zone; Pomeranian Special Economic Zone; Gdansk Science and Technology Park and the media patron of Radio Gdansk.

Thank you for participating and see you in two years at the 9th edition of ENTIME!

Author: Magdalena Licznerska, Gdansk University of Technology

Joint Paper Development Workshop

Internationalization, Entrepreneurship and Innovation – A Multilevel Perspective

The 2nd Applied Economics and Management (AEM) and Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) PhD Programs is a Joint Paper Development Workshop for doctoral students and early career academics. This has been an opportunity for PhD students and young scholars to present their research and discuss it in an international, productive and collaborative environment. Participants received feedback and suggestions on their own research ideas and presentation in front of academic, in addition to obtaining insights on the writing of publishable journal papers, selection of research methods. To reach this objective, the paper presentation have been structured in 8 parallel sessions with the chairs that ran the discussion allowed the students to get very useful feedback on their research. Each track chair received the work in advance, so the discussion was aimed at providing useful suggestions to students on how to focus future research increases. Moreover, the workshop has included the participation of renowned scholars specialised in entrepreneurship, who have provided comments and suggestions on proposals sent by the participants.  Two plenary sessions have been organised with the following guest speakers:

  • Howard Aldrich, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA: “How to present a research project”
  • Roberto Parente, University of Salerno, Italy: “Human Entrepreneurship”
  • Alberto Felice De Toni, University of Udine: “Introductory speech”
  • Francesca Cesaroni, University of Urbino: “How to join ECSB”


Finally, the participants also had the opportunity to enjoy a guided visit to the first European Apple Academy (IoS Academy). This academy is located within the Technological Pole San Giovanni a Teduccio of the University of Naples Federico II, and is an entire floor totally dedicated to the IoS software development activities, a uniqueness in the European landscape. The visit and the presentation stimulated the curiosity of the students towards the issues surrounding entrepreneurship with specific focus on the hi-tech sector.

Several networking moments were organised, including the social dinner. Such moments are always extremely useful for creating connections and generating exchanges of opinions. Overall, the feedback from the participants in the Seminar has been very positive and has encouraged us to organise the 3rd Joint Paper Development Workshop in 2020.


Invited speakers

Howard E. Aldrich received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and is Kenan Professor of Sociology, Adjunct Professor of Business at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Faculty Research Associate at the Department of Strategy & Entrepreneurship, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, and Fellow, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University. His main research interests are entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial team formation, gender and entrepreneurship, and evolutionary theory.

Roberto Parente is Full Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at University of Salerno (Italy). He’s the Director of the Master M2I “Entrepreneurship and Open Innovation” , and previously he was in charge of the Master RISS “Tech Transfer in Life Science”. Founder and Director of LISA Lab a Research Centre whose main topics are: Science Based startup; Students Entrepreneurship; Finance for innovation. His main research interests are entrepreneurship, innovation, entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Alberto Felice De Toni has been the Rector of the University of Udine since 2013 and Secretary General of CRUI Conference of Rectors of Italian Universities since 2015. He is the president of the Foundation of CRUI Conference of Rectors of Italian Universities. He is full professor of “Organization of Production” and “Management of Complex Systems” in the degree course of Management Engineering. He was President of the Degree Course in Management Engineering (from 2001 to 2006) and Dean of the Engineering Faculty (from 2006 to 2012).

Francesca Maria Cesaroni is associate professor of Business Economics at the University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”, Department of Economics, Society and Politics. She teaches accounting, entrepreneurship and small businesses. Her main research topics concern small and medium-sized enterprises, entrepreneurship, women’s businesses, family businesses, generational change, financial communication. She is a member of the Italian Association for the Study of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASPI). She is a member of the Editorial Board of some scientific journals and a reviewer of other international academic journals. Since 2012, Francesca Maria Cesaroni is a member of AFECA (Association de Formazioni Européennes à la Comptabilité et à l’Audit), a stable network with contributions from all over the world. Since 2009 she is coordinator of the PhD in Economics & Management, Department of Economics, Society and Politics, University of Urbino. She is also Italy country vice president for ECSB (European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship).


The target group of the workshop has been PhD students and young scholars who aim at a continued academic career in the fields of entrepreneurship, innovation, and international entrepreneurship. In particular, 30 proposals have been received for participation in the seminar. 26 of them have been accepted for presentation, although only 23 contributions were presented during the workshop due to some last minute absence. The contributions have been split in eight parallel sessions each with a track chair. The majority are either PhD students or early career researchers. Additionally, participants attended also two plenary sessions.

Track chairs are professors and researchers from University of Naples (Pierluigi Rippa and Ivana Quinto), University of Bergamo (Tommaso Minola and Davide Hahn), University of Pavia (Antonella Zucchella and Giovanna Magnani) and University of Salerno (Roberto Parente, Massimiliano Vesci and Antonio Botti).

Overall, 41 participants attended the seminar, made up of approximately 9 professors, 11 early career academics, and 21 PhD students.


This is the second year TIM and AEM organise the joint PhD workshop.  The event has been organised by the University of Naples Federico II (UNINA), which will be the RENT 2020 host. This workshop is included in the “Road to RENT 2020” program aimed at increasing the number of interested researchers in the ECSB network attending the conference.

The seminar has been supported by the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB) and it has been co-branded by:

  • RENT (Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business)
  • EIASM (European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management)
  • AIIG (Italian Association of Engineering Management)
  • SIMA (Italian association of Management Scholars)

Local Organisers:
Ivana Quinto and Pierluigi Rippa

Scientific Committee:
Davide Hahn, Giovanna Magnani, Tommaso Minola, Ivana Quinto, Pierluigi Rippa, Antonella Zucchella

Author: Pierluigi Rippa, University of Naples

Edinburgh Social Entrepreneurship Conference 2019: Organizing for Social Change

Edinburgh, June 03-04, 2019

The Edinburgh Social Entrepreneurship Conference 2019 was a two-day event hosted at the University of Edinburgh Business School on the 3rd and 4th of June 2019. The conference responded to the rapidly growing interest in social entrepreneurship (SE) research as a continuously developing domain with high importance for theory and practice. The event offered a valuable opportunity for a limited number of PhD students and early-career academics to discuss and develop their ongoing work with distinguished experts in the social entrepreneurship field. Scholars who are more advanced in their careers were also welcome to attend.

Picture1Invited Speakers

It was with great pleasure to welcome a broad range of distinguished academics who discussed the work of the participants and gave insights into their own most recent research. The academic speakers included:

  • Benson Honig is Professor of Human Resources and Management as well as the Teresa Cascioli Chair in Entrepreneurial Leadership at DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Canada.
  • Mairi Maclean is Associate Dean and Professor of Management, Strategy and Organization at the University of Bath, UK.
  • Frank Moulaert is Professor of Spatial Planning and Head of the Planning and Development Unit ASRO at KU Leuven, Belgium.
  • John Amis is Professor of Strategic Management and Organisation at the University of Edinburgh Business School.
  • Helen Haugh is Senior Lecturer in Community Enterprise and Research Director at the Centre for Social Innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School, UK.
  • Ben Spigel is Chancellor’s Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the University of Edinburgh Business School.
  • Sarah Ivory is Lecturer in Climate Change and Business Strategy at the University of Edinburgh Business School.
  • Winston Kwon is Chancellor’s Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management at the University of Edinburgh Business School.

The conference also took a practice perspective on SE and invited a number of leading Scottish social entrepreneurs including Zakia Moulaoui (Founder of Invisible Cities), Colin McMillan (Program Manager at Firstport), and Jonny Kinross (Chief Executive at Grassmarket).


A broad range of 38 international participants comprised predominantly PhD students and early-career academics. It was a very diverse group from several countries and renown universities, such as: Italy (Bocconi University; Politecnico di Milano), UK (University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Southampton, Newcastle University, University of Bath), Denmark (University of Southern Denmark), Sweden (Stockholm Business School), Canada (McMaster University, Memorial University of Newfoundland), Taiwan (Creative Education and Management Foundation).


Programme Sessions

Participants had the chance to present their research in a number of paper presentation sessions. Each participant was given a 30 minutes presentation slot and received valuable feedback from the senior academics mentioned above, as well as from fellow students and other session participants. The conference programme furthermore comprised different panel and discussion sessions. For example, in the session “Closing the Gap between Theory & Practice”, leading academics and practitioners discussed the practical impact of SE research. In a research seminar titled “Crafting Philanthropic Identities”, the audience got detailed insights into the evolvement of a high-quality research paper. The most popular session of the event, however, was “Getting Published in Leading Journals: Insights from Editors and Authors”. In this session editors from leading academic journals shared their insights into what scholars need to consider during their publication journey. The session sharpened participants view by illustrating them the do’s and don’ts for high-level publications.

In general, the friendly and familiar atmosphere of the event provided a comfortable environment and great networking opportunities for all participants. Drinks receptions and dinner opportunities provided the sustenance and ensured a highly dynamic and interactive spirit. This way, participants built connections with lasting impact beyond the Edinburgh Social Entrepreneurship Conference. Overall, the organization committee of the conference was highly pleased with the positive feedback received and hereby expresses its gratitude to all participants and supporters who facilitated the fantastic event. Special thanks go out to the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB) and the University of Edinburgh Business School, the main supporters of the event. We hope to be able to continue hosting the Edinburgh Social Entrepreneurship Conference in the years to come.

Authors: Florian Koehne and Chris Klinghardt, Heads of the Organizing Committee, University of Edinburgh Business School

Designing and Assessing Learning in Venture Creation Programs

In Venture Creation Programs the venture acts as a ‘learning vessel’, enabling what students need to learn – and more. Under guiding support, students need to engage in doing what they are expected to do as practicing entrepreneurs. But if these activities become detached from the rest of the education, as educators we do not know the extent to which students have actually practiced these skills, if they have learned to master them, and if they are aware why they have done them in a certain way. Furthermore, we do not know if the actions are trial and error or if they are using curriculum to become informed about how to do and to reflect upon what they have done and what they need to do next to move the venture forward. Given the venture creation program setting, a key question is: to what extent are our learning objectives regarding entrepreneurial mindsets and skillsets actually fulfilled? How do we ensure that the students are engaging in ‘doing what they need to do’ in order to ‘learn what they need to learn’?

We are educators facilitating learning on a daily basis in two VCPs: Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship and NTNU School of Entrepreneurship. The issue of how to design and assess learning in order to ensure that the students are learning what they need to learn is therefore continuously on our minds and in our discussions. For the Practitioner Development Workshop (PDW) at the 3E 2018 Conference in Enschede we decided to discuss this issue with other entrepreneurship educators. The participants were divided in groups around a two-by-two matrix with mindset and skillset on the x-axis and classroom and venture on the y-axis. Each group started their discussion by recalling and sharing a learning activity. Thereafter, the challenge was to combine this learning activity with activities from the other side of the y-axis (thereby combining theory and practice) and suggest how the assessment should be made for the combined activity. When all groups presented what they had done, the participants described that the matrix had challenged them to think about various possibilities of combining activities compared to their standard practice. The participants confessed that their group discussions had brought to light the particular difficulty of assessing development of mindset as takes place in the venture.

At the VCP-forum the same year, 25 participants from European and North-American VCPs gathered to discuss best practices, better practices and challenges of facilitating learning in VCPs. The participants of the VCP-forum did not find the combination of academic work and venture creation difficult per se and had a clear idea of how it should co-exist in their programs on the structural level. It was the practical aspects of how to facilitate learning in this way that were perceived to be the most challenging. For instance, the program managers recalled being frustrated when students did not seem to be aware of ‘what was good for them’, prioritized the wrong meetings, or simply did not engage in and complete enough academic or practical tasks to see the whole picture. The program managers agreed that it is the documented learning from the venture creation process that should be assessed, and not the results (read: success, or not) of the venture being created. However, there was still no consensus on how to practically capture the learning experience, in part due to the contextual complexity inherent in each environment, compiled by the unique variables of each venture journey.

Thus, ensuring that the students are engaging in ‘doing what they need to do’ in order to ‘learn what they need to learn’ is a multi-faceted problem with many issues that are still unresolved. But we can recognize that these issues depend upon the design and assessment of learning, which helps to focus our attention as educators. Everyone working in a VCP witness the benefits of using academic knowledge when analyzing the situation in a venture while simultaneously using the practical understanding from venture creation when approaching theoretical concepts. We can recognize that when puzzle pieces fall into place, students are able to climb steep learning curves at a remarkable speed. We therefore need to continue to discuss and share experiences between VCPs in order to continue to improve facilitation and assessment of learning processes.



Karen Williams Middleton (on right) is Associate Professor in entrepreneurship at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden and Lise Aaboen (on left) is Professor of technology-based entrepreneurship at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway.

We were invited to write this blogpost based on our PDW-award from the 3E 2018 Conference in Enschede, the Netherlands. The second part of the blog post is based on a conference paper that summarized the VCP-forum in Trondheim 2018. If you want to discuss VCPs, do not hesitate to send us an e-mail (karen.williams(a); lise.aaboen(a)

Williams Middleton, Karen and Lise Aaboen (2018) “Designing and Assessing Learning in Venture Creation Programs”. PDW at 3E ECSB Entrepreneurship Education Conference, in Enschede, the Netherlands on May 16-18, 2018.

Haneberg, Dag Håkon, Lise Aaboen and Karen Williams Middleton (2019) “An evidence-based research agenda for action-based entrepreneurship education“. Presented at CREE Entrepreneurship Education, rethinking connections: Implications, Opportunities and Changes, in Roanne, France on March 7-8, 2019.

Do idealists feel less competent? What entrepreneurs’ social identity tells us about their perceived entrepreneurial competences

Entrepreneurs’ self-efficacy – the individually perceived competence to master entrepreneurial challenges – is essential for nascent entrepreneurs to survive the challenging process of establishing a new venture. In a recent study we analyze data from 753 nascent entrepreneurs to show that those who identify with entrepreneurship as a way of becoming rich and gaining power, perceive themselves to have greater entrepreneurial competence than those who essentially understand entrepreneurship as a method to make the world a better place. For society at large, this might have serious consequences for the types of entrepreneurial opportunities that are executed. In this blogpost we condense our findings and explain where the differences might stem from.

Blog post June 2019_1In 2017, the well-known entrepreneur Elon Musk was asked at a conference in Dubai to offer advice for young people wanting to become like Elon Musk, and replied “I am not sure I want to be me.” Since he was a child, Elon Musk knew who he was and who he wanted to be, as he said about the time when he was in college “I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world.” Nevertheless, gaining the competence and perception to really change the world took him on a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows in his career and personal life. There are many more examples of entrepreneurs with a mission to change the world for the better who have struggled in their early career until they really perceived they had the competence to become a successful entrepreneur. Particularly in the early stages of a venture, it is important that entrepreneurs perceive themselves to be able to adequately address forthcoming entrepreneurial challenges. On the downside, being overconfident as an entrepreneur potentially results in venture failure as such overconfident entrepreneurs set unattainable goals.

We studied the behavior and entrepreneurial spirit of 753 nascent entrepreneurs at 39 higher-education institutions in Germany. The results show that entrepreneurs who are still in the process of founding their company have different levels of perceived competence with regard to being successful entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly, the results show that conducting activities like launching marketing or promotion efforts or already selling the product, help nascent entrepreneurs to enhance their entrepreneurial self-efficacy. Additionally, having a general sense of controllability, which means that you do not let external factors dictate what you are doing, also leads to higher levels of self-efficacy among nascent entrepreneurs. However, these well-established explanations do not tell the whole truth. A significant amount of entrepreneurs’ perceptions of how competent they are can be explained by their social identity. Nascent entrepreneurs with an entrepreneurial social identity primarily based on economic self-interest and competition (i.e., Darwinian entrepreneurs) are more likely to perceive themselves to be effective entrepreneurs than those who base their social identity on advancing a cause that benefits society at large (i.e., missionary entrepreneurs).

Why are Darwinian entrepreneurs more likely to perceive their entrepreneurial self-efficacy to be high than are nascent entrepreneurs with a mission to change the world? Generally self-efficacy can be developed through the experience of accomplishments, vicarious learning, positive feedback, and a stable physical and emotional state. Obviously, enjoying accomplishments is far more difficult for those who are driven by advancing a cause benefiting society at large than for those who are basically driven by economic self-interest. Since most of us live in free market economies where the model of competition and financial success is deeply rooted, those self-interested entrepreneurs who aim to be successful in these dimensions are more likely to receive positive feedback and to find appropriate role models.

Nevertheless, our results also show that the reasons for these differences do not stem from differences in the education or experience of these entrepreneurs, which leads us to the conclusion that differences might only be perceived rather than real. Imagine asking a physician about his or her management competences. Even if s/he did a really good job in managing the medical practice, s/he would probably primarily feel competent in the realm of saving lives and would associate management competency with other groups of people.

The same might be true for entrepreneurs who primarily want to advance a socially beneficial cause. Their main goal is to achieve a societal vision such as reducing income inequality through entrepreneurial projects, so they identify with skills and competences such as empathy and impact measurement. To realize their ambitions, they nevertheless need basic entrepreneurial skills like being a good communicator and successfully managing an organization. The physician would not be able to save lives without a functioning medical practice. Accordingly, we might ask whether entrepreneurs with a missionary social identity need to have and perceive competences in entrepreneurial skills to economically, ecologically, and socially tackle grand challenges.

Blog post June 2019_2What could we do to foster entrepreneurial skills especially among nascent missionary entrepreneurs? Learning about entrepreneurship and gaining experience in entrepreneurship helps different types of entrepreneurs to feel more competent but, as our study shows, does not mitigate differences in perceived competences between entrepreneurs with different social identities. We need nothing less than a change in the classification of certain skills among different types of entrepreneurs. Just as we should teach students of medicine that running a medical practice competently is part of a physician’s DNA, we should also teach nascent missionary entrepreneurs that entrepreneurial skills like managing innovation are the foundation of sustainably applying solutions to societal problems. Furthermore, we now know that nascent missionary entrepreneurs might not feel wholly competent in the skills of entrepreneurship, even when in reality they are. This is why education should help those entrepreneurs to truly experience their entrepreneurial self-efficacy through teaching methods like service-learning, and offering them the experience and positive feedback they need to alter their perceptions of competence. Such a policy could help transcend the frontiers of commercial entrepreneurship and social activism by rewarding individuals who base their social activities on solid entrepreneurial skills and competences. Specifically, more funding and promotion for social entrepreneurship could create an awareness among nascent entrepreneurs that possessing basic entrepreneurial skills and a missionary social identity can serve one and the same end.

About the authors

Leif BrändleLeif Brändle is a PhD candidate at the Entrepreneurship Research Group, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany. He is facilitator of the Startup Garage Hohenheim and part of the organizing team of the Social Innovation Summit in Zurich/Stuttgart, the largest conference on social innovation and social entrepreneurship in the German-speaking countries.

Andreas KuckertzAndreas Kuckertz, Dr. rer. pol. habil. (University of Duisburg-Essen) is Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany. He is also president of FGF e.V., the largest and leading association of entrepreneurship and innovation scholars in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

II Paper Development Seminar: New Developments in Entrepreneurial Process Research

Seville, April 22nd – 23rd, 2019

The Seminar “New developments in the research of the entrepreneurial process” has helped participants to develop their research results in documents that may be suitable for publication in top-level academic journals. To achieve this objective, the seminar has included the participation of renowned scholars specialized in entrepreneurship, who have presented some of their most recent research on the analysis of the entrepreneurial process, as well as reviewing and commenting on the documents (overviews) sent by the participants. These are scholars with positions of responsibility (editor in chief, associate editor) in top-level journals (JCR and similar).

Seminar host Francisco Liñán (from the left) and the invited speakers: Dimo Dimow, Robert Blackburn, Alain Fayolle and Johan Wiklund

Participants have had the opportunity to present their research to the audience. They received general comments, specific clarifications and suggestions from the academics that make up the panel of experts in entrepreneurship. In this way, a productive and intimate work environment has been successfully developed.

A best paper award was granted to Anette Kairikko for her contribution entitled “Leveraging embeddedness in accelerator networks – a study of internationalizing edtech startups”. The award consists on one-year free membership to the ECSB.  The overall quality of submissions was very high and, thus, selection has been difficult. Four runner-ups have also been offered a fast-track review process to the RENT 2019 Conference to be held in Berlin next November.

Best paper award
Silke Tegtmeier, President of the ECSB, and Francisco Liñán, Head of the Local Organizing Committee, presented the award to Anette Kairikko.

Finally, the participants also had the opportunity to enjoy a guided visit to the historical building of the University of Seville’s Rectorate. This is known as the “Royal Tobacco Factory”, as this was its original use back in XVIII Century. The visit included a cocktail dinner on site.

Overall, the feedback from the participants in the Seminar has been very positive and has encouraged us to organize the 3rd Paper Development Seminar in 2020.

Group photo
Participants of the II Paper Development Seminar in Seville

Invited speakers

Johan Wiklund is Chair and Al Berg Professor at the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, as well as second professor at Nord University, Norway and Visiting Professor at Lund University, Sweden. He is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, one of the leading entrepreneurship journal worldwide.

Alain Fayolle is a distinguished entrepreneurial professor, founder and director of the Entrepreneurship Research Center at EM Lyon Business School, France. Alain is an associate editor of the Journal of Small Business Management.

Dimo Dimov is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Bath, United Kingdom as well as editor-in-chief and founder of the Journal of Business Venturing Insights. He has recently been recognized as one of the 100 best entrepreneurship professors in the world.

Robert Blackburn is Vice Dean of Research at the School of Social and Business Sciences at the Kingston Business School, as well as director of the Small Business Research Center. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Small Business Journal.


44 proposals were received for participation in the seminar. 24 of them have been accepted for presentation. The average number of authors per proposal is 2. The authors split in three groups. The majority are either PhD students or early career researchers. However, a small number of established professors have also submitted their proposals. Overall, 32 participants attended the seminar (excluding the invited speakers), made up of approximately 10 professors and/or early career academics and 22 PhD students. Additionally, the plenary sessions were open for local academic staff who was interested.


The Seminar is an example of collaboration between local institutions. Apart from the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB), we have also had the support from the following institutions:

  • IUSEN: “Tomas de Mercado” Institute for Research in Economics and Business.
  • PYMED Research Group (“SMEs and Economic Development”).
  • ELITE project: “Longitudinal study on the process of emergence of high-impact entrepreneurs”.

Author: Francisco Liñán, Head of the Local Organizing Committee, University of Seville

Entrepreneurial Teams: How to Teach a Course

There is this video from the Kauffman Founders School collection where Steve Blank says that “we are doing a very bad job in entrepreneurship education in teaching teams and teamwork and the value of having a founding team. (…) What we really don’t teach is what happens when the pressure is on, not only the skills that you need, the complementary skills of hacker, hustler, designer, architect, something else (…) Not only people’s skill-sets, but how do you deal with crisis and conflict. And we really don’t teach that. (…) So going through a simulation exercise like that (e.g. start-up week-ends) is really valuable”.

I teach a course dedicated to entrepreneurial teams. For me, such a course should exist in every entrepreneurship curriculum. But I still had to convince the others to let me deliver such a course. First, I highlighted the quantitative and qualitative importance of entrepreneurial teams, given that most new ventures are now team based (at least one-half and up to 79.1 per cent in a recent survey of European start-ups). I also emphasized that research has demonstrated that enterprises founded by entrepreneurial teams tend to register superior performance (e.g. growth) to their solo counterparts. Finally, I stressed the importance that entrepreneurial teams have for potential investors (professional or not) and eventually I got to craft my course and deliver it. Here are a few lessons I learned from the process and from my students.

  1. Clichéd advice you will fight

I started looking for teaching material, syllabi, case studies, etc. that focused on the topic of entrepreneurial teams (Teacher 101). What I found (this was some years ago) was practically nothing that was truly research-grounded. If you are looking for “simple” advice, there is plethora of it: avoid your friends (or not), mixing skills is the key (or not), split the equity later on (or not), and so on and so forth. Everything and its opposite. And all of this advice usually based on no research grounding whatsoever; best case scenario, it is based on common wisdom and on experience. I like both, but I also like when things are grounded in research. Once a researcher, always a researcher, no? This is why Steve Blank’s comments are interesting. While we probably do not teach as much about entrepreneurial teams as we should, and while experiential learning is indeed crucial, we have the responsibility to go further than what common sense and some (experienced) entrepreneurs can tell us. In this respect, Phillip Kim and Howard Aldrich recently did an interesting review of common advice about entrepreneurial teams in which their chapter evaluates two commonly held stereotypes about strategies for constructing founding teams promoted by practitioners and experienced entrepreneurs”. But can research on entrepreneurial teams also enable us to develop guidelines and content for our students, for prospective entrepreneurs?

  1. Research-based guidelines you will develop

While there is a lot of common sense advice regarding entrepreneurial teams, the dearth of research is striking. It has been 40 years since Jeff Timmons wrote about entrepreneurial teams and wondered whether they were “an American dream or nightmare?” but research into this topic remains relatively recent. It is now picking up momentum, with journal special issues, literature reviews and conference tracks on the topic increasingly visible. However, the overall level of output remains quite low. One source for useful content would be to check out some of Noam Wasserman’s cases in the Harvard Business School collection, together with his book “The Founder’s Dilemmas”. Concerning entrepreneurial team dilemmas, Wasserman first examines the Solo-versus-Team Dilemma before turning to what he calls the “Three Rs: Relationship Dilemmas, Role Dilemmas, and Reward Dilemmas”. A survey of 3,607 private high-potential US start-ups forms the quantitative backbone of this book, and based on these data and illustrations from various cases, Wasserman offers many interesting insights. The Kauffman Founders School YouTube channel has a collection of videos about these “Founder’s Dilemmas”. But what else has research to offer? In a recent blog article, I discussed the current position of research on entrepreneurial teams and suggested where we might/should be heading. While there are many interesting papers on entrepreneurial teams, it is oftentimes difficult to translate them into operating guidelines for entrepreneurs and their advisors. In preparing my course on entrepreneurial teams, the most difficult task was to try and squeeze out some operative quintessence of existing research. Alongside the quantitative research that delivers interesting figures on the phenomenon, what was also helpful is the qualitative research that delves into the longitudinal dynamics and helps explain and nuance some of the quantitative results.

  1. Real-life case studies and entrepreneurs encounters you will use

The problem in following the two first learning points is that it is a hard sell with students. At the beginning of my course, I always ask the participants why they chose this elective (amongst 300+ others available at the Master level in my school). I try to outline their personal learning objectives, and then I tell them what they won’t be getting: one-size-fits-all-recipe-for-success type of advice they can find on the Internet. Instead, we will be elaborating guidelines (based on research) on how to tackle the most important entrepreneurial team-related issues one could encounter. Two major problems immediately arise: (1) students are generally expecting straight-forward easy recipes (one-best-way style), and (2) they want to hear the advice from practitioners. So where does that leave me and my fantasy course with research-based nuanced guidelines but no clichés? First, there are some good simple but not simplistic recipes, research-proofed. And they are very important to anchor the course. Second, I invite team entrepreneurs and have the students interview them with the help of a beforehand co-constructed interview guide. The entrepreneurs tell their stories and give whatever advice they wish to the students. The latter then have to analyze the discourse in the light of the research-based guidelines they discovered during our course. It is a good way to have them ‘practice’ what they have learned. For me, it is also an opportunity to craft mini-cases out of these interview sessions to be used in the future with new classes.

All in all, students find this to be a great course that gives them a wonderful insight into assembling entrepreneurial teams and making them work. However, some still wish they got more straight-forward simple answers to the various dilemmas and that (even) more practicing entrepreneurs would come and share their experience. For a pedagogue, this means that there is still work to be undertaken in conveying to the students that they should be able to appreciate each situation in its complexity and develop a unique solution based on research evidence rather than applying a rule of thumb given by an entrepreneur. For a researcher, this calls for more research in order to be able to address additional issues more thoroughly. For me, it just means keep going, keep doing research and keep teaching about entrepreneurial teams. What about you? Tell me about how you teach entrepreneurial teams and how you think that research can contribute?


Author: Cyrine Ben-Hafaïedh is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at IÉSEG School of Management (LEM-CNRS) in Paris, France. The blog post is based on her chapter titled “Entrepreneurial Teams Research in Movement” published in the book “Research Handbook on Entrepreneurial Teams: Theory and Practice” (ISBN: 978 1 78471 319 5).