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PhD Position – Scaling-up New Ventures, Building Sustainable Growth Platforms

Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERiM), The Netherlands

Erasmus Research Institute of Management invites applications for a Ph.D. position in Scaling-up new ventures: building sustainable growth platforms – The Netherlands 2022

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General Info

Position: PhD Position
No. of Positions: 1
Research Field: , , ,
Joining Date: ASAP
Contract Period: -
Salary: According to Standard Norms

Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)
Erasmus Research Institute of Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERiM)
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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Qualification Details

The successful candidate:

  • Is smart and intrinsically intellectually motivated;
  • Has good analytical and writing skills;
  • Has demonstrated experience in a variety of regression-based analytical techniques, such as panel data analysis, survival analysis, quasi experimental techniques, etc.
  • Holds a MPhil or MSc management in one management’s mother disciplines (sociology, economics, political science, econometrics, or similar fields);
  • Has achieved a great grade point average;
  • Has written an interesting and innovative MPhil or MSc thesis;
  • Meets or exceeds the formal ERIM admission criteria.

Responsibilities/Job Description

Media and policy makers are fond of new ventures that are able to scale-up quickly bringing new products and services to the market while creating new jobs. Start-up firms play a vital role in generating new business activities and in creating economic welfare; however, various studies have clearly explicated that many nascent organizations do not survive – and if they do - remain relatively small (Hopkins, 1997). In the United Kingdom, for instance, fast growing firms represent only a small minority yet they generate the majority of new jobs in recent years (Nesta, 2009; 2011). Interestingly, a comprehensive set of start-up programs and policy reforms in Denmark in the early 2000s led to a dramatic increase in the numbers of ventures formed, but when analysed five years later, the vast majority had plateaued at a few employees, and fewer than 1% met the fairly modest criteria set to be considered "growth" ventures. So what’s the problem? Why don’t we have as many successful growing organizations we can point to? What makes it so difficult for start-ups and small organizations to move into areas of comparative advantage and high-value added as to generate attractive growth patterns?

Despite their importance, thus, there is a dearth of empirical evidence of this phenomenon while there are no current unifying theories that explain how some firms are able to scale up and grow at fast paces while others do not. In particular, we lack knowledge on the drivers of scale-up venture successes, on the mechanisms and processes of scale-up ventures and on the dynamics of capability and resource reconfiguration during the scaling-up. The main objective of this PhD project is to shed light on the phenomenon of scale-up ventures exposing the drivers, processes, mechanisms, capabilities, resources and structures that allow them to succeed. By doing so, this project has the potential to contribute to the bodies of knowledge of entrepreneurship and strategy fields while providing ventures teams relevant practical implications.


Strategic Entrepreneurship, Start-up, scale-up, entrepreneurship, strategic management, fast growth, managerial capabilities

How to Apply?

Online Application through "Apply Now" Button from this page

Reference Number: 3489
(If any, use it in the necessary place)

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Documents Required

About the Project

The field of Strategic Entrepreneurship is at the nexus of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management as it is concerned with both the creation and capture of wealth by individuals, organizations, and societies, and investigates their opportunity-seeking and advantage-seeking behaviors. In a competitive, changing, and uncertain landscape the creation of wealth demands proficiency in continuously identifying and creating new opportunities for growth, i.e. opportunities which allow an entity to create new value in the future. The capture of wealth in such a landscape demands excellence in implementation and execution as to strengthen existing advantages and to reap the benefits of the new growth initiatives.

Positioned in this broader context, is the more specific research problem of how new ventures (start-ups) can grow and develop into scale ups. By leveraging new technologies, establishing platforms and networks, redefining organizational boundaries, and developing new and scalable business models, scale-ups feed and draw upon regional ecosystems in terms of talent, capital, institutions, and other businesses. However, for startups or established firms to initiate and pursue rapid growth opportunities, they face a multitude of challenges related to adequately scaling and aligning resources, practices, systems, and processes. Leading and managing scale-ups and engaging in rapid growth over time poses specific challenges and inherent uncertainties that are quite different from those faced by startups or established organizations (Jansen, Vera & Crossan, 2009; Zahra, Ireland & Hitt, 2000).

Although popular press emphasizes successful stories of companies such as Google or Facebook that scaled up rapidly and policy makers highlight how scale-up firms are the main engines of job creation, we lack knowledge of the antecedences, processes and mechanisms that make small firms to achieve high-paced growth. This is not surprising since scale-up companies are rare despite their importance to the economy explaining why there is scarcity of empirical investigation. Such void calls for research action and raises a number of questions that the current strategic entrepreneurship literature has not able to sufficiently address. For instance:

From the notion of scale-up to the process of scaling-up. Since most studies have investigated scale-ups using static perspectives and analyses, we lack useful insights into the dynamic process of scaling-up. This is a crucial omission because a thorough understanding of the origin of scale-ups requires not only the identification of determinants, but also the way such a process manifests itself in patterns of actions and behaviors. Some relevant questions include:

  • How do startups transform into scale-ups?
  • What alternative pathways or journeys that can be taking to scale-up growth opportunities? How do they differ in pace and forms, including organic (i.e. internally generated) and non-organic growth (i.e. through mergers and acquisitions, joint-ventures or alliances).
  • How do scale-ups maintain their high-growth over time? How do they deal with potential trade-offs between pursuing new growth opportunities while improving their cash flow?

Scalability. Scalability refers to the ability of the firm to grow fast without being affected by the restrains of existing structure and resources. The notion of scalability has become well established in recent years, as technological advances have created new opportunities to attract consumers and to create network effects to gain scale quickly. Interesting questions investigate constituents, dimensions and challenges of scalability, like:

  • What are key dimensions of scalability? What differentiates scalability from related constructs such as organizational growth, productivity and efficiency?
  • What are key-characteristics of scalable business models? In what way do high-growth firms incorporate and apply digitization and integrate new technologies from different industries in their business models?

What new rules of strategy can we learn from fast growing companies; how do they gobble up market share from incumbents so quickly; and how do they transform competition?


This project could potentially combine qualitative, explorative research with large sample quantitative research on archival or primary data using a variety of analytical techniques.

Expected output

The project is expected to result in top-ranking publications in journals like the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Journal of Business Venturing, Journal of Management or any other top-ranked management journal that publishes work on scale-up ventures. We also aim to secure an excellent placement of the candidate at an internationally renowned research-based business school upon completion of the thesis.


This research will be conducted in cooperation of the Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship ( and (non)governmental agencies working in the area of startups and scaleups. Moreover, long-term collaborations will be established with startups and scaleups in order to collect indepth insights.

Societal relevance

Most start-ups fail to grow or even transform into scale-ups. Yet doing so is crucial to their performance and survival, are of critical importance for, for instance, GDP and employment growth in well-developed and dynamic market economies.

Scientific relevance

Integration of relatively disconnected fields of entrepreneurship (start-ups) and strategy (maintaining advantage and growth). Dynamic rather than static view on the managerial capabilities needed to develop and grow new initiatives. Scaling-up in general is a white-spot in the scientific literature despite its importance for society.

Literature references & data sources

Data sources potentially include existing longitudinal secondary dataset such as Orbis and data from the Dutch Chamber of Commerce as well as primary data collection through surveys and interviews. Relevant literatures include those on entrepreneurship, strategy implementation, organizational paradoxes, and organizational growth.

About the Employer: Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERiM)

Employment Conditions

ERIM offers fully-funded and salaried PhD positions, which means that accepted PhD candidates become employees (promovendi) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO).

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Contact details

For questions regarding the PhD application and selection procedure, please check the Admissions or send us an e-mail via

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