Suresh Kotha, a professor of management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, has received the 2022 Helena Yli-Renko Research Impact Award from the Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Southern California.
This award, presented at the Academy of Management annual meeting, recognizes one paper each year that has made the most significant and sustained impact on the study of entrepreneurship, as measured by the number of citations it has drawn (based on the Social Science Citations Index) in the five years following publication.
This year, the honor goes to Kotha’s 2016 Academy of Management Review paper “Changing with the Times: An Integrated View of Identity, Legitimacy, and New Venture Life Cycles.” The study was co-authored by Greg Fisher (PhD 2012), an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Indiana University, and Amrita Lahiri (PhD 2016), an assistant professor of management, information systems and entrepreneurship at Washington State University. Both co-authors were doctoral students at the Foster School when the project began.
Seeking venture legitimacy
In their award-winning paper, Kotha, Fisher and Lahiri established the imperative of entrepreneurial ventures to address different criteria for legitimacy as they evolve, grow and seek resources from different audiences over time.
New companies are a risky investment. The entrepreneurs trying to launch them suffer from “liability of newness” concerns. To counteract this liability, they need to acquire, manage and maintain organizational legitimacy.
“But legitimacy attained early in a venture’s life,” the authors wrote, “does not ensure its continuance over time.”
Entrepreneurs should recognize that a venture’s identity must evolve over time. They should be prepared to layer on additional identity elements while striving to retain valuable and important elements of the current identity.”
– Suresh Kotha
The criteria for legitimacy, in the eyes of resource providers, shifts as a venture moves through distinct life cycle stages of conception, commercialization and growth. Take the example of a company launched to commercialize a university research discovery:
- Conception – Grant administrators and university professors base new venture legitimacy on “technological plausibility,” the technical reputation of founding team members, the status of their affiliated institution and compliance with scientific practices. They also focus on how the technology can benefit society.
- Commercialization – Venture capitalists and angel investors focus on whether the venture can reap above-average market returns over time. They begin to look beyond the founders’ human capital to the venture’s accomplishments and “proof points.” Their emphasis is on private gains resulting from commercializing the venture.
- Growth – Institutional investors and potential corporate partners seek tangible performance metrics, especially growth in revenues and future profitability.
Kotha, Fisher and Lahiri determined that ventures must navigate periods of “institutional pluralism” and learn to flow between the differing identities that earn legitimacy in different life cycle stages. They also found that high levels of legitimacy attained in prior stages may serve as a buffer for meeting legitimacy requirements in subsequent stages.
“Entrepreneurs should recognize that a venture’s identity must evolve over time,” concluded the authors. “They should be prepared to layer on additional identity elements while striving to retain valuable and important elements of the current identity.”
Engine of entrepreneurship
Kotha joined the Foster School faculty in 1996, after earning his PhD from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and serving a combined decade on the faculties of Rensselaer’s School of Management and the NYU Stern School of Business.
At Foster, Kotha is the Olesen/Battelle Excellence Chair in Entrepreneurship. He serves as chair of the Department of Management and Organization and research director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, with which he has had a long history of leadership roles.
He initiated the annual West Coast Research Symposium, in collaboration with other prominent entrepreneurship centers at University of Oregon, Stanford University and the University of British Columbia.
His own research on competitive strategy, corporate entrepreneurship and technology entrepreneurship has been published in a wide array of top-tier journals, including the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Accounting Research, Social Science Research, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Journal of Business Venturing, and Journal of Operations Management. And his expertise in strategy and entrepreneurship has been chronicled in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, NPR and many other prominent media outlets.
Latest in a career of editorial leadership, Kotha currently serves on the editorial board of the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal.
He has also authored numerous case studies involving a long list of blue chip and innovative companies that includes Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing and Harley Davidson. His consulting clientele includes RealNetworks, Boeing and F5 Networks.
At Foster, Kotha has won numerous awards, including the Lex M. Gamble Award for Excellence in Case Development and Curriculum Innovation (2015), TMMBA Teacher of the Year (2010, 2012), the Dean’s Best Faculty Case Award (2006), the Dean’s Citizenship Award (2004), the International Faculty Excellence Award (2004) and the Lex N. Gamble Family Award for Excellence in the field of E-Commerce (2001).