University spin-offs (USOs) have attracted increasing attention due to being an important source of innovation, university income, and job creation. To support their creation and growth, universities have developed university ecosystems of diverse actors. However, existing research has found mixed results on the effectiveness of these support mechanisms. In particular, there is a lack of research illustrating the impact premarket support mechanisms can have on premarket USO development and their strategic outcomes such as timing of the USOs’ first market entry. The findings identify that both the university environment and ecosystem actors leave lasting positive and negative imprints upon USO founders. USO founders who had positive engagement with university ecosystem actors and perceived their university environment as supportive, developed entrepreneurial skills, and market knowledge earlier in the USO formation process. This resulted in greater market readiness and, consequently, contributed to an early first market entry. Conversely, USO founders who perceived barriers within their university environment and had negative experiences with ecosystem stakeholders developed more cautious and risk-averse behavior, contributing to a late market entry. This article contributes new knowledge into the antecedents of USO market entry timing through the novel lens of imprinting.
- market entry timing
- technology transfer
- university spin-off (USO)
- university support mechanisms