Going online: Peer entrepreneur networks in a startup accelerator before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract

A key value proposition of startup accelerators is the creation of social networks among participating entrepreneurs. The formation of these so-called “peer entrepreneur networks” is assumed to be strengthened by physical proximity within the accelerator, which facilitates the creation of trust and opportunities for informal, and often serendipitous, interactions. However, in response to the global spread of COVID-19, accelerators abruptly shifted their programs online, thereby allowing a rare opportunity to test the veracity of the assumptionthat physical proximity drives social connectivity. To understand how this shift affected peer entrepreneur networks, we compare longitudinal network data of two consecutive cohorts of the same accelerator: one offline-before, and one online-during, the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing from the literature on physical proximity and interaction ritual theory, we show that in the online (compared to the offline) program, peer entrepreneur networks became less dense, entrepreneurs reached fewer peers via indirect connections, and clusteringincreased. We discuss contributions to theory on peer entrepreneur networks and startup accelerators

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Last time updated on 23/01/2024

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