Good to Go First? Position Order Effects in Expert Evaluation of Early-Stage Ventures
20 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2019
Date Written: November 8, 2019
There is considerable anxiety and conflicting advice concerning the benefits of presenting/being evaluated first. In this paper, we investigate how randomly assigned expert evaluators vary in their evaluations of pitches, based on position order, in the premiere innovation fund competition in Beijing, China. In this research: (a) the prize money at stake is economically meaningful. (b) Evaluators with different professional backgrounds are randomly assigned to evaluate pitches individually, with scores then averaged for the purpose of selecting grantees. (c) The evaluations observed in this setting result in funding that is non-zero-sum as funds are doled-out based on cumulative scores until all available funds for a particular year are allocated. (d) We also obtained and coded granular measures of the firms’ pre-pitch performance metrics used by the evaluators in their judgments. As this written material was the sole basis of evaluation used by the experts — in contrast with the persuasiveness of oral or live sports/musical presentations that may vary considerably across performances and which may be impacted by (even random) performance order — we have a compelling context to assess evaluation order effects. We can and do also estimate firm and evaluator fixed effects models that yield consistent findings. Overall, we find that an applicant that is evaluated first needs net profits in the top fifth percentile to merely equal the evaluation of an applicant in the bottom first percentile that is not evaluated first.
Keywords: Social evaluation, entrepreneurship, innovation, venture capital
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