Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Business

First Advisor's Name

Karl Galen Kroeck

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Nathan Hiller

Third Advisor's Name

William Newbury

Fourth Advisor's Name

Chris Girard

Fifth Advisor's Name

Marianna Makri


Ambidexterity, Exploration, Exploitation, Internal Locus of Control, Achievement Motivation, Family Startups, Lone Founders, Innovation, Survival, Cognitions.

Date of Defense



Regulatory Focus Theory predicts that the motivation to self-regulate goal-directed thought and behavior depends on two distinct regulation strategies: a promotion focus based on attaining gains and a prevention focus based on avoiding losses.

This study took a social-cognitive approach predicting that regulatory focus has an impact on how family startups (several family related founders) explore “new ideas”, exploit “old certainties” and achieve the balance of both (ambidexterity), compared to lone founder startups (only one founder present).

It was proposed that the social context of family ties among founders leads them to a prevention focus concerned with avoiding the loss of the socio-emotional benefits of those ties. In order to avoid such a loss, family founders were expected to increase their risk perceptions and thus, explore less than lone founders, who lack such socio-emotional ties. It was also proposed that two commonly used psychological traits in entrepreneurship research --achievement motivation and internal locus of control, predispose entrepreneurs to a promotion focus. Founders with a promotion focus, in turn, were hypothesized to lead startups to more risk-seeking behaviors and to more explorative orientation.

The previous argument was used as a springboard to derive hypotheses about ambidexterity (the ability to exploit and explore simultaneously) and survival hazards. Using Regulatory Focus Theory, exploitative orientation, conceptualized as the motivational strength to continue on previous paths of action, was hypothesized to be not significantly different from that of lone founder startups. Taking previous arguments together, lone founder startups were hypothesized to be more ambidextrous than family startups. Finally, ambidexterity and internal locus of control were hypothesized to reduce survival hazards in family startups.

The findings suggested that family startups explore less than lone founder startups even after controlling for group effects. Interesting but contradictory findings revealed that internal locus of control have both a positive direct effect and a positive interaction that increases the explorative and ambidextrous orientation gap of family startups over lone founder startups. As expected, ambidexterity and internal locus of control reduced survival hazards on family startups. Implications for practitioners were derived based on a sample of 470 nascent entrepreneurs.





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