A. (Ajlin) Dizdarevic

Ajlin Dizdarevic
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ERIM PhD Candidate (parttime programme)
Affiliated since 2018

PhD Track Corporate-startup collaboration: a new way of organizing to innovate

Contemporary profoundly transformational and disruptive business arena has put a

lot of pressure on enterprises to find new ways to conquer unprecedently fast

industry dynamics and to innovate vigorously. Corporate-start-up collaboration is

one of them, and its importance is growing. As its name already suggests, it is

specific. It involves an established incumbent organization and a start-up. They are

on opposite sides of their evolutionary path. One is just starting its corporate life

while the other has already had a strong corporate and social legacy. Their size, age,

structure, goals, and strategy differ. Among others, their distinct technology, people,

business partners, organizational culture, reputation, experience, and knowledge,

define them. The nature of both types of enterprises shapes this distinctiveness.

Start-ups are entrepreneurial, dynamic, and agile. These corporate youngsters with

high-risk appetite often have a simple, microstructure, and in order to survive, they

must scale. They do not focus on the processes, and they do not “do” routines. Their

creativity leads the way as they go with the flow. On the other side of the corporate

spectrum, there are the corporates. These large experienced seniors are more

stable, structured, and organized. They are grounded in processes, hierarchical

decision making, and more significant managerial layering. Their appetite for risk is

timid, but in order to stay competitive, they must be increasingly entrepreneurial.

Notwithstanding all these differences, start-ups and corporates have one strong

commonality – a need to consistently invent new products and commercialize them

as quickly as possible. Their decision to engage in collaborative innovation is hence

strategic and entrepreneurial. This asymmetric match is curious and challenging.

Despite research developments in innovation, organizational competencies,

alliances, and corporate engagement with start-ups, it is still somewhat unclear what

specific capabilities are needed to manage corporate-start-up collaborative

innovation effectively. This dissertation will examine how a large incumbent firm

effectively manages its collaboration with a start-up and a portfolio of start-ups to

develop or commercialize an innovation. It will reveal what the corporate-start-up

collaboration capabilities are, why they matter, and how they evolve. Specifically,

1) what is the theoretical framework of corporate-start-up collaboration, 2) how is

such collaboration effectively managed on a dyad (one corporate and one start-up)

level, and 3) on a network (one corporate and a portfolio of start-ups) level?

In order to answer these questions, the project will start with an extensive

systematic literature review in order to understand what we know so far about

corporate-start-up collaborative innovation. It will continue with a longitudinal indepth

process field study that will carefully observe both dyad and network

corporate-start-up collaboration within the pharmaceutical industry. Primary

theoretical lenses will include alliance capabilities, dynamic capabilities, resourcebased,

knowledge-based, and relational views together with absorptive capacity

and real options. The dissertation will 1) provide a better understanding of

corporate-start-up collaboration and show what specific dynamic capabilities

characterize successful collaborative innovation on a 2) dyad and 3) network


Time frame
2018 -


Visiting address

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3062 PA Rotterdam

Postal address

Postbus 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam