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Standing up against crisis-induced entrepreneurial uncertainty: Fewer teams, more habitual entrepreneurs

Universität Hohenheim

The global spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has led to drastic infection control measures that have dramatically affected societies and economies worldwide. Against this background, it is the purpose of this commentary to illustrate how innovative entrepreneurial activity in particular has been affected by the rising uncertainty caused by the first COVID-19 wave.

  • Disziplin: Wirtschaft
  • Forschungsmethode: Quantitativ
  • Forschungsdesign: Sekundäranalyse, Weitere Daten (z. B. Einzelinterview, Web Scraping, Laborwerte etc.)
  • Erhebungsstatus: Erhebung abgeschlossen, Ergebnisse veröffentlicht

Ziele der Studie

The commentary explores how the rising uncertainty caused by the exogenous COVID-19 shock has affected innovative startups founded during the first wave of the pandemic. Ebersberger and Kuckertz (2021) were able to show that innovative startups indeed follow Winston Churchill’s famous call to ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ who introduced numerous innovations to markets, in fact, at a faster rate than more established players. The flipside of the entrepreneurial opportunities resulting from a crisis is, however, rising uncertainty.

The analysis of 889 innovative startups drawn from the Crunchbase database illustrates how entrepreneurs who established their businesses during the first wave of COVID-19 have responded to rising uncertainty. More precisely, the analysis illuminates how this exogenous shock has affected entrepreneurial team composition, in particular with respect to the basic decision to start a venture as a team or not, the involvement of experienced, that is, habitual entrepreneurs, and the involvement of women founders in such innovative startups. This empirical view on the composition of entrepreneurial teams potentially furthers the understanding of how innovative startups address uncertainty.

The scientists aimed to test three hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1 (H1): With rising uncertainty, the share of new innovative ventures established by teams increases.

Hypothesis 2 (H2): With rising uncertainty, habitual founder involvement with new innovative ventures increases.

Hypothesis 3 (H3): With rising uncertainty, female founder involvement with new innovative ventures declines.


The analysis of innovative entrepreneurial activity to test the three hypotheses is based on data provided by Crunchbase, a database focusing primarily on innovative companies. Although published research relying on Crunchbase data has mostly analysed venture capital investments in innovative startups, Crunchbase in fact covers the global entrepreneurial ecosystem in all of its aspects. That is, the database contains a plethora of daily updated information about innovative startups worldwide (whether they raised funding or not), about individual entrepreneurs, venture capital firms, individual investors, funding rounds and even universities and the entrepreneurial activities of their alumni. Over the years, this database has become a premier resource that can be used to understand and analyse the startup world.

For the present analysis, the data on startups were extracted from Crunchbase using 11 March 2020, as a reference point; this was the date on which the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. To be able to compare pre-pandemic and in-pandemic entrepreneurial activity, two 100-day periods were selected, each of which was 100 days away from the date of the WHO announcement. In other words, data were retrieved for European and North American for-profit startups founded during the 100-day period from 24 August 2019, to 2 December 2019, designated as unambiguously pre-pandemic startups, and data were retrieved for European and North American for-profit startups founded during the 100-day period from 19 June 2020, to 27 September 2020, designated as unambiguously in-pandemic startups that were started during the first COVID-19 wave. The database was checked on 15 October 2020, and after data cleaning, N = 889 innovative startups, for which information on founders and industries were available, formed the sample.

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