The purpose of this paper is to provide insights on the relational dimension of a networked business incubator (NBI), by investigating the intermediary role of incubator management in fostering social and business ties linking tenants among each other, with the incubator management and external actors.
The paper offers a literature review on the NBIs and advances a comprehensive analytical framework of the networked incubation model. This framework is empirically illustrated through a case study research on a leading Italian private NBI, namely, H-Farm. The collection of primary data was conducted by means of face-to-face in-depth interviews and a survey. Data were processed through social network analysis (SNA) tools.
The results highlight the co-presence and interaction of social and business ties, which build up a vital environment nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Community-based relationships and the intermediation of incubator management are crucial for supporting tenants in product and business development activities.
These results pave the way to further research, oriented to the conceptualization of a NBI as a (small) cluster. Moreover, the application of the SNA tools adopted invites further research on networked incubators, applying the same methodology in new directions.
This paper adds to previous literature on NBIs by providing evidence of the intermediary role of incubator management in promoting and facilitating social and business relationships occurring among tenants, between tenants and the incubator management, as well as with external advisors, clients and suppliers.
The authors are particularly grateful to Giuseppe Folonari, Investment Manager of H-Farm, who provided the authors with detailed information concerning the evolution of the incubator business model, the competitive arena and the BI’s functioning, from the screening of ideas to the incubation phase and finally the exit one. The authors also engaged in meaningful conversations with Valentina Paruzzi, Former Growth Manager in Digital Academia, Giorgio Soffiato, CEO of Marketing Arena and Marketing Consultant for H-Farm ventures, Alessandro Cappellotto, Former Community Manager in Zooppa and presently Web & Social Media Marketing Consultant for H-Farm ventures.
Apa, R., Grandinetti, R. and Sedita, S.R. (2017), "The social and business dimensions of a networked business incubator: the case of H-Farm", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 198-221. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSBED-07-2016-0103
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