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“Failure Is an Option: Institutional Change, Entrepreneurial Risk and New Firm Growth”

Robert Eberhart

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Does an institutional change that eases exit via bankruptcy reform enhance venture growth? We take advantage of a quasi-natural experiment in Japan to examine this question. Using longitudinal data over a 10-year period, we find that bankruptcy reform not only increases the rates of bankruptcy and founding, but more importantly improves the likelihood of high growth ventures. This institutional change disproportionately encourages elite individuals (i.e., those with superior human and social capital) to start firms. In turn, these individuals are more likely to launch high growth ventures. Broadly, we contribute at the nexus of institutional theory and entrepreneurship by placing elite entrepreneurs and venture growth in the spotlight, and by highlighting how an institutional change that eases exit fosters a regenerative cycle of exit, founding and growth by attracting more capable entrepreneurs. Overall, we conclude that lowering barriers to exit via lenient bankruptcy laws encourages superior – and not just more – entrepreneurs to start firms.

LSB Research, MGMT, 2016, Robert Eberhart, Eberhart, Publication