Founder or Joiner? The Role of Preferences and Context in Shaping Different Entrepreneurial Interests

Management Science (2015), 61(9), 2160-2184

44 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2012 Last revised: 31 Jul 2017

See all articles by Michael Roach

Michael Roach

Cornell University

Henry Sauermann

ESMT European School of Management and Technology; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 24, 2014


Entrepreneurial ventures rely not only on founders, but also on “joiners” – start-up employees who are attracted to entrepreneurship but who do not want to be founders themselves. Drawing upon both preference and contextual theories of entrepreneurship, we examine how individuals’ interest in being a founder, a joiner, or neither forms prior to the first career transition. We find that although individuals with founder and joiner interests share similar preferences for entrepreneurial job attributes such as autonomy and risk, their preferences for these attributes also differ in significantly meaningful ways. Contextual factors such as norms, role models, and opportunities exhibit very different relationships with founder and joiner interests. Most interestingly, our results suggest that preferences and context interrelate in unique ways to shape different entrepreneurial interests. In particular, an interest in being a founder is most strongly associated with individuals’ preferences for entrepreneurial job attributes, while contextual factors do little to shape a founder interest in individuals who lack these preferences. An interest in being a joiner, on the other hand, is associated with both preferences and context, and this relationship is most pronounced for individuals with preferences that predispose them toward entrepreneurship. This study highlights joiners as a distinct type of entrepreneurial actor and demonstrates the importance of considering the interplay between preferences and context in the study of entrepreneurship.

Keywords: entrepreneurship, joiners, human capital, academic entrepreneurship, scientists and engineers

JEL Classification: M13, O32, J24, M51

Suggested Citation

Roach, Michael and Sauermann, Henry, Founder or Joiner? The Role of Preferences and Context in Shaping Different Entrepreneurial Interests (September 24, 2014). Management Science (2015), 61(9), 2160-2184. Available at SSRN: or

Michael Roach (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
SC Johnson College of Business
Ithaca, NY
United States

Henry Sauermann

ESMT European School of Management and Technology ( email )

Schlossplatz 1
10117 Berlin

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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