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How Joiners Differ from Founders in Startups

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A growing interest in startups has focused attention on company founders who often take great risks to launch new ventures. But what about the people who join these founders to help them develop new companies?

Research reported in the journal Science analyzed these “joiners” and noted that while they resemble founders in their willingness to take risks and their desire for the freedom of a startup, there are important differences. For instance, joiners are less interested in management and more interested in functional roles such as research and development, making them more like those who go to work for established companies.

“Sometimes you can have a single founder who handles the full range of activities for a startup, but — especially in technology — you need additional people to research and develop the products,” said Henry Sauermann, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. “There are many people who are interested in working for startups but who don’t want to be founders.”

Sauermann and co-author Michael Roach, an assistant professor in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, found the differences while examining the entrepreneurial interests of 4,200 Ph.D. candidates who were within two years of obtaining degrees in STEM fields. Nearly half of these scientists and engineers reported an interest in joining a startup as an employee, while slightly more than one in 10 said they expected to found their own companies.

— John Toon

Henry Sauermann

Henry Sauermann is an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. His interests are in science and innovation, and entrepreneurial strategy.

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