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Help Me Do It on My Own: How Entrepreneurs Manage Autonomy and Constraint within Incubator Organizations

The Structuring of Work in Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-78635-436-5, eISBN: 978-1-78635-435-8

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 17 August 2016


Scholars have studied how entrepreneurs acquire resources but have not examined how resources may be bundled with constraints, which can threaten entrepreneurial autonomy. Organizational sponsors, such as incubators and accelerators, provide entrepreneurs with resources, but how do entrepreneurs sustain autonomy while seeking resources and support? We studied five entrepreneurial firms in a business incubator over a six-month period. While benefitting from incubator resources, entrepreneurs also experienced unexpected constraints, including mentor role conflict, gatekeeper control, and affiliation dissonance. By showing how entrepreneurs unbundled the incubator’s resources from constraints, we explain how entrepreneurs manage the tension between acquiring resources and preserving autonomy.




The authors would like to thank the director, staff, and resident companies at the business incubator studied for their support of this project. The authors also benefitted from discussing this research project with participants at the Davis Conference on Qualitative Research. We are also very grateful for the comments of our reviewers which greatly helped the development of this manuscript.


Seidel, V.P., Packalen, K.A. and O’Mahony, S. (2016), "Help Me Do It on My Own: How Entrepreneurs Manage Autonomy and Constraint within Incubator Organizations", The Structuring of Work in Organizations (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 47), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 275-307.



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