Date of Award

Summer 8-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Managerial Sciences

First Advisor

Pamela Barr

Second Advisor

William Bogner

Third Advisor

Denis Gregoire

Fourth Advisor

Edward Rigdon


This dissertation introduces the model of opportunistic adaptation to explain new venture growth. In established firms processes of change and adaptation usually imply a transition from one steady-state strategy to another and a problem oriented perspective as firms change in response to potential threats to their current positions. However, in the context of new ventures, adaptation is less about moving from one existent strategy to another and more about the entrepreneur’s effort to reach a steady state for the first time by continuously experimenting and combining resources in creative and innovative ways. The model of opportunistic adaptation rests on three key assumptions: 1.) new venture growth results from actions grounded in an opportunistic (proactive) logic; 2.) entrepreneurial cognition is viewed as an antecedent to all organizational actions leading to growth; 3.) the relationship between entrepreneurial cognition and action is influenced by industry and firm level attributes. The model is tested using quantitative and qualitative data on new ventures founded between 1996 and 2006 in technology intensive industries. The results provide partial support for the notion of opportunistic adaptation as a process in which entrepreneurial cognition, firm and industry related factors are closely intertwined. The results of the dissertation suggest that some aspects of entrepreneurial cognition, such as entrepreneurial schema focus have a more direct effect on actions related to new venture growth than others whose effect is strongly moderated by contextual influences such as industry growth and social network heterogeneity. This dissertation also finds that not all types of organizational actions associated with an opportunity logic lead to new venture growth. Of the three action types included in the model (fast, diverse and frequent) only action diversity was found to have a positive impact on new venture growth. Theoretical implications of the study results for both the literature on new venture growth and the literature on organizational adaptation, as well as practical implications are discussed.