Competitor Exposure and Entrepreneurial Performance

In this study, we empirically examine the effect of sharing information with close or distant competitors as part of an incubation program. There is recent evidence of substantial heterogeneity in acceleration programs, with qualitative research highlighting that the main benefit for participants to these programs is the increased exposure to information and the feedback they obtain. Such exposure helps balance the bounded rationality of founders. Consistently, studies in other settings (business owners retreat) find that information exchange with peers has long-lasting and positive effects on firm outcomes With this study, we aim to investigate the extent to which nascent entrepreneurs prefer not to share information about their business, the extent to which this preference is correlated with actual behaviour, and the extent to which initial preferences and interactions with close/distant competitors affects decision-making over time. 600 entrepreneurs taking part in an incubation program are randomly assigned to conduct exercises in-pairs with other participants who are either close competitors, distant competitors, or not competitors (i.e., operating in completely different industries). We record the extent to which entrepreneurs are willing to share information with competitors prior to starting the course, and use this information to understand whether entrepreneurs who are more reluctant to share information actually share information about their business, and if they perceive interactions with competitors to be beneficial for them. In addition, we test if these interactions affect key choices entrepreneurs make (such as pivoting, or testing new courses of actions).