Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Crises and Entrepreneurship

My research takes a dual perspective on digitalization in times of crises. On the one hand, entrepreneurial opportunities for digital social innovation arise during the Covid-19 pandemic. On the other hand, entrepreneurs cope with crisis through digitalization.

  • Crises and entrepreneurial opportunities for digital social innovation
  • Coping with crisis through digitalization

Resourcing in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial ecosystems provide resources relevant to the entrepreneurship process, and entrepreneurs leverage and expand their networks to mobilize such resources. Thus, I jointly analyze networks, networking, and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

  • Comparing entrepreneurial tie formation Silicon Valley and Berlin
  • Analyzing the entrepreneurial ecosystems in Silicon Valley and Berlin
  • Resourcing in entrepreneurial teams

Crises and Entrepreneurship

Crises hit entrepreneurs hard since they have little buffer to cope with such turbulences. At the same time, entrepreneurs strive in turbulent times. Based on the current Covid-19 pandemic, my research takes a double perspective on crises, entrepreneurship and digitalization.

First, since physical distancing is a core measure to mitigate the spread of the virus, entrepreneurial opportunities for digital social innovation arose. The pandemic came as an exogenous shock and fostered entrepreneurial activities not only among pre-existing entrepreneurial ventures, but also among people who were previously not engaged with entrepreneurship or social innovation. These entrepreneurial activities aimed to mitigate the societal consequences of crises, emphasizing the important role of entrepreneurial activities for society.

  • Crises and entrepreneurial opportunities (with Ali Gümüsay, Franziska Günzel-Jensen, Gorgi Krlev, and Miriam Wolf)
  • Mobilizing resources for the greater good (with Franziska Günzel-Jensen)

Second, this exogeneous shock imposed severe constraints on society at large, economic actors, and entrepreneurs in particular. Solo-entrepreneurs have particularly little buffer and lack organizational capacities to react to such turbulences. Watch Lena Schürmann’s video interview. (with Isabell Stamm, Lena Schürmann and Arne Maibaum)

  • Solo-entrepreneurs in times of crises: Coping through digitalization
  • The specific vulnerability of solo-entrepreneurs through crises
  • Norms of solidarity in crises: Should we help solo-entrepreneurs?


Crises and entrepreneurial opportunities: Digital social innovation in response to physical distancing

As physical distancing is a core measure of containing the spread of COVID-19, this pandemic is a crisis that has uprooted social interaction. While current research mainly focuses on crises as a challenge for entrepreneurial ventures and potential regulatory response mechanisms, we complement this research by addressing the question of how crises in general—and COVID-19’s physical distancing measures in particular—shape entrepreneurial opportunities for social innovation. Based on two rounds of data collection—desktop research mapping out 95 entrepreneurial activities in Germany and four focus groups—we find first that entrepreneurs are proactive agents in alleviating the negative consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. They do so by creating two types of digital social innovation: digital brokering and digitized services. Second, we note that negative societal consequences of crises can be buffered by shifts in entrepreneurs’ strategic orientation through improvised venturing, rapid pivoting and pro-social product extension. Third, we note variance in the persistence of changes with consequences for entrepreneurial opportunities and social innovation: Whereas some social innovation are rather ephemeral, others might endure and promise long-term impacts. We offer key insights for the literature on crisis, social innovation and hybrid organizing as well as on the implications for entrepreneurship practice and policy.

Resourcing in Entrepreneurship

I’m fascinated by how innovative entrepreneurs acquire resources during the very early days of their new ventures. Entrepreneurs leverage and expand their networks to mobilize resources, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem provides (at least some of) these resources. This research area comprises three broad topics. First, I analyze entrepreneurial ecosystems to develop a profound understanding about their different forms and functioning across regions. For example, this research focusses on how the fragmentation of the Berlin EE shapes resource accessibility for entrepreneurs, and how inequalities are (re-)produced within the Berlin EE. Furthermore, it emphasizes the high entrepreneurial entrance barriers of Silicon Valley.

  • The fragmentation of the Berlin EE. Listen to my ERD podcast.
  • Inequality within the Berlin EE (with Isabell Stamm and others)
  • High entrance barriers of the Silicon Valley EE. Watch our conference presentation. (with Michaela Hruskova)

Second, I compare entrepreneurial tie formation in Silicon Valley and Berlin, arguing that the EEs shape how ties can and should be formed. For example, different ties can be leveraged in Silicon Valley and Berlin to approach investors. Silicon Valley-based entrepreneurs can approach first customers in the same way as they approach investors, while Berlin-based entrepreneurs have to engage in different practices. Who you can ask for advice does even differ among Berlin-based entrepreneurs, i.e. start-up and spin-off entrepreneurs.

  • Comparing investor tie formation Silicon Valley and Berlin (with Anna Brattström)
  • Particularities of advice tie formation in Berlin (with Philip Roth)

Third, I argue that focusing on a single entrepreneur and how she networks is insufficient, since entrepreneurship is predominantly a team effort. Thus, entrepreneurs network as a team. In line with this argument, I also showed how templates for how a good team should look like shape entrepreneurial teams formation.

  • Resourcing in entrepreneurial teams (with Joris Ebbers and Yuval Engel)
  • Social contexts in team formation


Degrees of Integration — How a Fragmented Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Promotes Different Types of Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (EEs) are expected to support high growth entrepreneurship. Yet, little is known about how they actually promote entrepreneurial activities. Based on Giddens’ structuration theory, this paper takes the entrepreneurs’ perspective to understand how they actually use the resources provided by an EE. Based on semi-structured interviews with entrepreneurs and other relevant actors in the Berlin EE along with participant observation at entrepreneurship events, this case study focuses on the resourcing practices of different types of entrepreneurs. It shows that the Berlin EE comprises two distinct subsystems. On the basis of this evidence it is proposed that EEs can have different degrees of integration and that this characteristic strongly impacts how entrepreneurs can actually acquire resources from the EE and thus how specific EEs promote different types of entrepreneurs. Heterogeneous structures therefore do not only exist between EEs but also within EEs. This heterogeneity needs to be recognized in order to understand how EEs function, enhance the comparability of research results, and design suitable political instruments to promote entrepreneurship effectively.

Interorganizational Tie Formation of Innovative Growth Companies in Silicon Valley and Berlin

In my PhD monograph, I compared interorganizational tie formation of innovative start-ups and university spin-offs in Silicon Valley and Berlin. To address the important research gap on interorganizational tie formation under conditions of high uncertainty and power asymmetry, I conducted 85 interviews with entrepreneurs and other relevant entrepreneurial actors and observed 26 entrepreneurship events in Silicon Valley and Berlin. Especially during the early founding stages, new ventures rely heavily on varying resources from their environment, but at the same time, they face great challenges to acquire them. Taking a structurationist perspective, I argued that entrepreneurial ecosystems do not only provide resources, but also scripts about how to acquire these resources. By comparing tie formation scripts and practices in Silicon Valley and Berlin, I showed how these entrepreneurial ecosystems impact interorganizational tie formation.

Soziale Ungleichheit und Unternehmertum

Entrepeneurial actions represent a surprising void in the recent economic-sociological discourse on inequality. Yet entrepreneurial actions not only contribute to the creation of inequalities, but can also address and deal with them. In this chapter, we argue that a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between entrepreneurship and inequality needs to consider multiple perspectives on this relationship and their interplay. To this end, we propose four perspectives: Firstly, entrepreneurial activity takes place under unequal conditions. Second, inequalities are found within the population of entrepreneurs. Third, entrepreneurship can be understood as a mechanism that produces inequalities. Fourthly, inequalities can also be identified, addressed and dealt with in the course of entrepreneurial activity. We then illustrate these four perspectives on entrepreneurship and inequality using the example of the Berlin start-up ecosystem. It becomes clear how these multiple perspectives make it possible to grasp the connection between entrepreneurial activity and social inequality in its multidimensionality.

Social Contexts in Team Formation. Why Do Independent Start-ups and University Spin-offs Form Teams Differently?

Although the entrepreneurial team has gained increasing attention as a unit of analysis, we still do not understand much about how these teams form. Previous research has focused either on existing social relationships and their role in the search for potential team members or on criteria for selecting team members. Consequently, we do not yet understand the interplay of search and selection. Another long-neglected aspect that is being increasingly recognized in entrepreneurship research is that the entrepreneurial process is influenced by its social context beyond existing social relationships. This social context is another important factor that has to be considered to properly understand team formation. To analyze how specific characteristics of one particularly relevant social context—namely, the entrepreneurial field—impact the search for and selection of team members, I conducted a qualitative, multiple-case study that compares innovative new ventures in Berlin. The study shows that different types of ventures in different phases exhibit different team formation patterns based on their different and changing social contexts. From these pattern, I have derived different team-formation mechanisms and propositions about the conditions under which they apply.

Curriculum Vitae

Visiting Scholar, Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

University of Amsterdam
February 2021 – July 2021

PostDoc, Research Center for Digital Transformation and Institute for Management and Organization

Leuphana University Lüneburg
since September 2020

Visiting Scholar, Department of Business Administration

Lund University
since March 2020

PostDoc, Sociology of Organization

Technische Universität Berlin
July 2020 – August 2020

PhD, Sociology of Organization, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

Technische Universität Berlin
2015 - 2019

My PhD research was positioned at the intersection of sociology, organizational theory and entrepreneurship. It adressed the research strands on interorganizational tie formation of innovative new ventures, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and entrepreneurial team formation.

  • Submission of PhD thesis: December 2019

BA and MA in Sociology and Technology Studies

Technische Universität Berlin
2007 - 2014

During my bachelor’s and master’s degree, I focussed on the sociology of organizations, innovation studies and science and technology studies.




Conferences and Workshops


  • Temporal Dynamics in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems; Organized by Timo Braun (FU Berlin), Katharina Scheidgen (TU Berlin), Suntje Schmidt (HU Berlin); Herrenhäuser symposium, funded by Volkswagen Foundation (25.000 €), July 2019, Hannover
  • Innovation Processes Across Organizations; Workshop with Prof. Hans Berends (VU Amsterdam) at the graduate school „Innovation Societ Today“ in collaboration with the DFG funded research group „Organized Creativity“, January 2017
  • PhD-Workshop with Prof. Nils Brunsson (Uppsala University), November 2016, TU Berlin
  • Bridges over Troubled Water - Network Constitution in Innovation Processes; Organized by Philip Roth (RWTH Aachen), Katharina Scheidgen (TU Berlin); two-day conferecene at TU Berlin, 45 participants, October 2016


  • Academy of Management Conference; „Lukewarm or hot? Comparing investor tie formation in Silicon Valley and Berlin“; Philadelphia, USA, August 2021 (with Anna Brattström)
  • EGOS Colloquium; „Team entrepreneurial network(ing)“; Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 2021 (with Joris Ebbers, Yuval Engel)
  • Cardiff Entrepreneurial Ecosystems workshop series; „Unequal entry barriers in Silicon Valley and Berlin“; Cardiff, March 2021 (with Michaela Hruskova)
  • EGOS Colloquium; „The Strength of Personal Ties: Tie Formation Scripts in Innovative Entrepreneurship“; Hamburg University, Germany, July 2020 (with Anna Brattström)
  • Conference of the German Network Research Association (DGNet); „Innovative Wachstumsunternehmen und unternehmerische Teams: Das Verhältnis persönlicher und interorganisationaler Netzwerke“; March 2020, Schader Foundation, Darmstadt, Germany
  • 4th European Conference on Social Networks; „Local Cultures of Tie Formation: The Impact of Context-specific Institutions on Advice Tie Formation“; September 2019, ETH Zürich, Switzerland (with Philip Roth)
  • 4th European Conference on Social Networks; „How New Ventures form Organizational Ties: The Varying Impact of Personal Ties in Berlin and Silicon Valley“; September 2019, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
  • Symposium "Temporal Dynamics in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems" at Herrenhaussen Castle, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation; „How Entrepreneurs Acquire Resources from the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem“; July 2019, Hannover, Germany
  • Invited talk: Brown Bag Lecture at NIKOS-Entrepreneurship Department; „Entrepreneurial Networking in Berlin and Silicon Valley. A Comparison“; April 2019, University of Twente, Netherlands
  • Spring Conference of the Section Organizational Sociology; „Wie Start-ups und Spin-offs Netzwerke bilden. Berlin und Silicon Valley im Vergleich“; April 2019, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany
  • Workshop of the DFG-funded network Venturing Together!; „Understanding Resource Acquisition in Entrepreneurial Teams: The Relation of Personal and Organizational Networks“; April 2019, TU Munich, Germany
  • Spring Conference of the Section Sociological Network Research; „Lokale Kulturen der Formation von Ratgebernetzwerken im Kontext von Innovationsversuchen“; February 2019, Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Cologne, Germany (with Philip Roth)
  • 39. Conference of the German Sociological Association; „Eigenlogiken der Netzwerkgenese – Von der systematischen Bedeutung kontextspezifischen Wissens über legitime Praktiken für die Genese von Netzwerken im Innovationsprozess“; September 2018, University of Göttingen, Germany (with Philip Roth)
  • 78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management; „Social Contexts in Team Formation. Why do Start-ups and Spin-offs Form Teams Differently?“; August 2018, Chicago, USA
  • 3rd Workshop of the DFG-funded network Temporary Organizing; „Temporal Dynamics in Entrepreneurial Networks and Ecosystems“; June 2018, Tilburg University, Netherlands (with Timo Braun and Suntje Schmidt)
  • Babson Conference; „How Networking Practices Constitute Entrepreneurial Ecosystems“; June 2018, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland (with Thomas Schmidt)
  • Doctoral Consortium prior the Babson Conference; „Networking for Innovation: Entrepreneurial Networking in Berlin and Silicon Valley. A Comparison“; June 2018, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland
  • Workshop of the DFG-funded network Venturing Together!; „Social Contexts in Team Formation: Why Do Independent Start-ups and University Spin-offs Form Teams Differently?“; April 2018, TU Berlin, Germany
  • Workshop of the Working Group Network Analysis and Organizations; „Network Development during the Founding Process. A Comparison of Start-ups and University Spin-offs“; November 2017, University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • 33rd EGOS Colloquium; „The Impact of Organizational and Interorganizational Practices on the Governance of Fields“; July 2017, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • EGOS Pre-Colloquium PhD Workshop; „Network Development Processes of Start-ups and University Spin-offs“; July 2017, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • The Fifth Austrian Early Scholar Workshop in Management; „Embedding in Fields by Embedded Networking: Start-ups’ Networking Practices in Distinctive Contexts“; May 2017, WU Vienna, Austria
  • New Institutionalism Workshop; „Network Development Processes of Start-ups in Innovation-specific Fields“; March 2017, The Hebrew University Jerusalem, Israel
  • 2nd Workshop on Entrepreneurship as Practice; „Networking Practices of Start-ups: Influenced by the Context, Influencing Network Design?“; February 2017, UCD School of Business Dublin, Ireland
  • ISBE Conferenc; „How Fields Matter: Network Development of Start-ups in Innovation-specific Contexts“; October 2016, Paris, France
  • Bridges Over Troubled Water: Die Konstitution von Netzwerken im Innovationsprozess; „Innovationsspezifische Netzwerkbildung von Start-ups im Innovationsprozess“; October 2016, TU Berlin, Germany
  • The Fourth Austrian Early Scholar Workshop in Management; „Innovation-specific Network Development Processes of Start-ups“; May 2016, JKU Linz, Austria
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