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Chapter 4: Entrepreneurial Learning in Energy Technology Start-ups: A Case Study in the Biogas Market
Petra Dickel and Helga Andree 1 INTRODUCTION Among renewable energy sources the biogas industry has grown at an above-average rate and seems to be particularly promising (Institut für Energetik und Umwelt, 2008). Compared to other energy sources, biogas is still in its infancy. Developing innovative technologies that increase quality and productivity of biogas applications is crucial to keep pace with the fast market development and to achieve competitiveness within the renewable energy sector. However, the commercialization of innovative energy technologies bears considerable risks as both technological and market uncertainties exist. Also, the turbulent environment of renewable energy companies requires that innovators adapt fast to new market conditions and trends. It is argued that a learning-based strategy is particularly appropriate to reduce uncertainty (Lynn and Akguen, 1998) and to cope with environmental turbulence (Glazer and Weiss, 1993). So far, learning research has concentrated on established companies, ignoring the fact that the context of new technology-based firms differs in several aspects (Dickel, 2008). First, start-ups are more prone to failure due to the liabilities of newness (Stinchcombe, 1965) and smallness (Freeman et al., 1983). Typically, new ventures not only lack resources and access to customers and other network partners but also have to deal with legitimation problems (Stuart et al., 1999). Second, technology start-ups often struggle to gather relevant market information as critical knowledge tends to be latent (von Hippel, 1986; Lettl, 2004), is known by only a few people (Zucker et al., 2002) and is thus hard to capture. At...
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