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Start-up competitions as learning environment to foster the entrepreneurial process

Renato Passaro (Department of Engineering, University of Naples Parthenope, Naples, Italy)
Ivana Quinto (Online Pegaso University, Naples, Italy)
Antonio Thomas (Department of Engineering, University of Naples Parthenope, Naples, Italy)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, to shed light on the increasing start-up competitions (SUCs) phenomenon; second, to provide an interpretive framework to understand whether the SUCs have the potential to be effective entrepreneurial learning environment; third, to analyse the different roles of public and private actors in organizing SUCs.


The paper presents a cross-section analysis of the Italian SUCs population. In total, 77 competitions are analysed on the basis of different criteria which should properly mirror their distinguishing structural features, helping understand the potential of SUCs as learning environments.


The recent increase in the number of SUCs has been mainly fuelled by private actors. Moreover, Italian SUCs show some features that make them rich learning environments. Private and public actors play different roles, as confirmed by statistical tests performed. Privately organized SUCs follow mainly a market-oriented approach, while publicly organized ones are more education oriented.

Research limitations/implications

The findings cannot be easily generalized mainly due to the peculiarities of the Italian context.

Practical implications

Soft forms of regulation should be defined to strengthen those features which could potentially support the entrepreneurial learning processes. In this view, SUCs should be part of a start-up friendly ecosystem where actors (startuppers, incubators, venture capitalists) are effectively coordinated with each other.


Despite the remarkable diffusion of SUCs, there are significant gaps in literature about this phenomenon. Given the lack of a systematic and comprehensive analysis of SUCs as effective entrepreneurial learning environments, the paper represents an important starting point.



This paper forms part of a special section Entrepreneurial learning dynamics in knowledge intensive enterprises.


Passaro, R., Quinto, I. and Thomas, A. (2017), "Start-up competitions as learning environment to foster the entrepreneurial process", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 426-445.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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