Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Business Administration

Additional Affiliations

Olin Business School

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Despite the long-term benefits of establishing a founding team with diverse functional knowledge, many entrepreneurs assemble a team of cofounders who are homogenous with respect to functional background. I examine this phenomenon in two empirical settings. First, in a university incubator program that brings together faculty, students, and outside community members, I use survey and audio data to examine the team formation process. I found that entrepreneurs initiate contact with a range of potential cofounders: some of whom possess functional knowledge that is different from the entrepreneur and others who share the same functional background as the entrepreneur. However, conditional upon being approached by an entrepreneur, potential cofounders are more likely to join a functionally similar entrepreneur than a functionally dissimilar entrepreneur because potential cofounders view functionally similar entrepreneurs as more instrumentally attractive (i.e., competent) and interpersonally attractive (i.e., likeable). Cofounders' feelings of attraction to the entrepreneur and the venture idea, in turn, influence which venture they choose to join. Second, I supplement this initial study with a quasi-experiment conducted at a local entrepreneur meetup event designed to test one of the proposed mechanisms underlying cofounders' attraction to functionally similar entrepreneurs. In this study, I employ the speed dating research paradigm from the romantic relationships literature to manipulate cofounders' social identity. I found that cofounders who invoke a broader superordinate social identity (i.e., seeing themselves as an entrepreneur) are more interpersonally attracted to functionally dissimilar entrepreneurs compared with cofounders who invoke a narrower functional identity (e.g., as a software developer). Together, these findings suggest that functional homophily in founding teams is influenced by potential cofounders' preference to work with functionally similar entrepreneurs and that cofounders' feelings of interpersonal attraction toward functionally dissimilar entrepreneurs can be enhanced by invoking a broader superordinate identity. This dissertation contributes to our understanding of new venture team formation, resource acquisition, and choice homophily.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Stuart Bunderson

Committee Members

Andrew Knight, Raymond Sparrowe, Hillary Elfenbein, Laura Huang,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K75M644Q