Title: Exploring the pre-entrepreneurial careers of high-technology entrepreneurs

Authors: Sarah Cooper

Addresses: Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow G1 1XH, UK

Abstract: The encouragement of high-technology entrepreneurship is an increasing focus of enterprise agency activities in growing numbers of developed economies. Universities are playing a role in the development of entrepreneurial capital through a range of initiatives and programmes targeted at enhancing levels of enterprise awareness and skills at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The effectiveness of such programmes is sometimes judged by the number of students starting a business when they graduate. This paper argues that such an approach fails to understand the nature of the pre-entrepreneurial career. Evidence is presented from a study of entrepreneurs in the electronics and software sectors, which demonstrates that sizeable numbers of firms are established by those in mid-career, after a significant time working as an employee. During this period, the entrepreneur gains knowledge and develops skills and networks, which facilitate the establishment of well-conceived and sustainable ventures. This paper suggests that secondary and tertiary education and workplace-based learning are complementary components in the development of would-be entrepreneurs, and that the numbers of individuals able to embark directly on an entrepreneurial venture will be very limited.

Keywords: entrepreneurship; high-technology entrepreneurs; small firms; SMEs; electronics; software; pre-entrepreneurial careers; prior experience; knowledge; expertise; high tech start-ups; workplace based learning; education; life-long learning.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCEELL.2006.010957

International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning, 2006 Vol.16 No.5, pp.341 - 354

Published online: 21 Sep 2006 *

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