Spanning monetary rewards to self-enhancing goals, existing studies on individual motivations to establish academic spin-offs share a positive inclination. Nevertheless, this type of firm does not outperform other start-ups. With a longitudinal study of 559 spin-offs from 85 Italian universities in the period 1999 to 2013, and controlling for several university- and context-level factors, we find that a lack of academic job positions at a regional level results in a higher propensity to spin-offs. Accordingly, we argue that academics sometimes become entrepreneurs as a second-best solution, because of shortcomings in the market for knowledge. This effect is negatively moderated by the teaching load in technology-based spin-offs, and by administrative support in non-technology spin-offs. We argue that a lack of administrative support might create an incentive to spin-off non-technology firms replacing the role of administrative staff.