Entrepreneurial Identity in the start-up process

Entrepreneurial identity (EI) is defined as the subjective and psychological representation of self as an entrepreneur (Gartner, 1988) and refers to the unique characteristics, values, beliefs, and behaviors that distinguish entrepreneurs from non-entrepreneurs. In other words, it is a person’s self-perception and self-concept, which influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions related to their entrepreneurial activities (Alsos et al., 2016; Brown et al., 2015; Fauchart and Gruber, 2011; 2020; Gur and Mathias, 2021).

EI has gained significant attention from academics and professionals in the realm of entrepreneurship and has been identified as a crucial component in the success of new businesses (Radu-Lefebvre et al., 2021). According to research, a strong entrepreneurial identity is positively correlated with entrepreneurial self-efficacy, initiative, and the development of new ventures (De la Cruz et al., 2018; Gruber and MacMillan, 2017; Hand et al., 2020; Sieger, et al. 2016). EI has also been demonstrated to affect entrepreneurial behavior and decision-making, such as the selection of opportunities, risk-taking, and persistence in the face of challenges (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000).

Studies on EI have mostly concentrated on its measurement as well as its antecedents and effects (Leitch and Harrison, 2016). Individual traits (such as personality and abilities), environmental influences (such as support from family and friends), and life events (such as entrepreneurial experiences) are some of the antecedents of EI.  Increased entrepreneurial self-efficacy, stronger tenacity in the face of challenges, and a higher possibility of starting a new business are all effects of EI (Alsos et al., 2016; Shepherd and Patzelt, 2018).

Missionary, Communitarian, and Darwinian are the three main types of social identities  that have been identified (Fauchart and Gruber, 2011). Entrepreneurs who have a great desire to have a positive impact on society and who regard their business as a way to do so are known as Missionary entrepreneurs. The importance of social and environmental responsibility is given top priority, and cooperation and teamwork are highly valued. Contrarily, Communitarian business owners see their enterprise as a means of fostering a sense of community and belonging. They put a high priority on the health of their workers and clients and aim to foster a welcoming and inclusive workplace. Darwinian entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are motivated by a fierce desire for success in the marketplace. They see their company as a means of winning in a competitive marketplace and prioritize innovation and risk-taking to achieve this goal.

Entrepreneurial identity is crucial in the setting of start-ups for influencing the objectives, plans, and choices made by founders and teams. A start-up founded by a Missionary entrepreneur, for instance, is more likely to prioritize sustainability and inclusion than one founded by a Darwinian entrepreneur, who is more likely to prioritize competition and financial success. Understanding the type of entrepreneurial identity that drives start-up founders can provide valuable insights into the goals, strategies, and decision-making of start-ups, as well as their likelihood of success.

Understanding EI is fundamental also in the realm of family business, particularly in terms of intrapreneurship and spin-offs by successors. The latter often face unique challenges, such as navigating family dynamics and reconciling competing demands on their time and resources. Understanding how the different or similar EI of the incumbent and of the successors may influence the formation and sustainability of these companies and can help provide valuable insights for entrepreneurs and researchers alike.

This special issue invites submissions of empirical and theoretical papers that advance our understanding of entrepreneurial identity and its relationship with start-up success. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • The antecedents and drivers of entrepreneurial identity formation of nascent entrepreneurs
  • The evolution of entrepreneurial identity over the start-up journey
  • The relationship between entrepreneurial identity and start-up performance
  • The role of entrepreneurial identity in shaping start-up strategy and decision-making
  • The interaction between entrepreneurial identity and other individual and situational factors (e.g., founder demographics, team composition, industry context)
  • The measurement and validation of entrepreneurial identity in the start-up context
  • The phenomenon of hybrid identities
  • Differences in identities across genders
  • EI among family businesses and impact on family and business dynamics in relation to succession, change and spin-offs.

We welcome both qualitative and quantitative research, including longitudinal studies, case studies, and experiments. Submissions will be reviewed by a team of international experts in the field of entrepreneurship and evaluated based on their originality, rigor, and relevance.

Submission Deadline: 30 November, 2023

For further information, please contact either Francesca Visintin (francesca.visintin@uniud.it) or Luca Solari (luca.solari@unimi.it).


Alsos, G. A., Clausen, T. H., Hytti, U., & Solvoll, S. (2016). Entrepreneurs’ social identity and the preference of causal and effectual behaviours in start-up processes. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 28(3-4), 234-258.

Brändle, L., Berger, E. S., Golla, S., & Kuckertz, A. (2018). I am what I am-How nascent entrepreneurs’ social identity affects their entrepreneurial self-efficacy. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 9, 17-23.

Brown, A. D. (2015). Identities and identity work in organizations. International Journal of Management Reviews, 17(1), 20-40.

Brown, A. D. (2021). Identities in and around organizations: Towards an identity work perspective. Human Relations, 0018726721993910.

De la Cruz, M. E., Jover, A. J. V., & Gras, J. M. G. (2018). Influence of the entrepreneur’s social identity on business performance through effectuation. European Research on Management and Business Economics, 24(2), 90-96.

Fauchart, E., & Gruber, M. (2011). Darwinians, communitarians, and missionaries: The role of founder identity in entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 935-957.

Fauchart, E., & Gruber, M. (2020). Entrepreneurship and identity. In A. D. Brown (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Identities in Organizations. Oxford University Press.

Gartner, W. B. (1988). “Who is an entrepreneur?” is the wrong question. American Journal of Small Business, 12(4), 11–32.

Gruber, M., & MacMillan, I. C. (2017). Entrepreneurial behavior: A reconceptualization and extension based on identity theory. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 11(3), 271-286.

Gur, F. A., & Mathias, B. D. (2021). Finding self among others: Navigating the tensions between personal and social identity. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 45(6), 1463-1495.

Hand, C., Iskandarova, M., & Blackburn, R. (2020). Founders’ social identity and entrepreneurial self-efficacy amongst nascent entrepreneurs: A configurational perspective. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 13(C).

Leitch, C. M., & Harrison, R. T. (2016). Identity, identity formation and identity work in entrepreneurship: conceptual developments and empirical applications. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 28(3-4), 177-190.

Newbery, R., Lean, J., Moizer, J., & Haddoud, M. (2018). Entrepreneurial identity formation during the initial entrepreneurial experience: The influence of simulation feedback and existing identity. Journal of Business Research, 85, 51-59.

Oliver, D., & Vough, H. C. (2020). Practicing identity in emergent firms: How practices shape founders’ organizational identity claims. Strategic Organization, 18(1), 75-105.

Radu-Lefebvre, M., Lefebvre, V., Crosina, E., & Hytti, U. (2021). Entrepreneurial identity: A review and research agenda. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 45(6), 1550-1590.

Shane, S., & Venkataraman, S. (2000). The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 217-226.

Shepherd, D., & Haynie, J. M. (2009). Family business, identity conflict, and an expedited entrepreneurial process: A process of resolving identity conflict. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33(6), 1245-1264.

Shepherd, D. A., Patzelt, H., (2018). Entrepreneurial identity. Entrepreneurial cognition: Exploring the mindset of entrepreneurs, 137-200.6t

Sieger, P., Gruber, M., Fauchart, E., & Zellweger, T. (2016). Measuring the social identity of entrepreneurs: Scale development and international validation. Journal of Business Venturing, 31(5), 542-572.

Stryker, S., & Burke, P. J. (2000). The past, present, and future of an identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63(4), 284-297.


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