“Right” From the Start: How Entrepreneurs Build Collective Ownership and Success in New Venture Teams



We examine a critical transition period in the life of nascent entrepreneurial ventures—the time when the venture shifts from the effort of a single entrepreneur to the work of an entrepreneurial team. Drawing upon work on psychological ownership, we develop a model outlining how this transition unfolds across time. Our model postulates that entrepreneurs need to build collective ownership among the members of the new venture team—the sense that the venture idea belongs to the team as a whole rather than just to the entrepreneur—by engaging in two seemingly contradictory behaviors: (1) displaying territorial marking to protect the idea from potential infringement attempts by new team members and (2) seeking new team members’ help on specific aspects of the venture idea. By mitigating disagreements regarding issues of influence and psychological ownership of the new venture idea, these behaviors should promote the development of collective ownership. New venture teams with a strong sense of collective ownership, in turn, are more likely to secure early success and to remain committed to the new venture in the future. The results of a longitudinal study (across four time points) of 79 newly formed entrepreneurial teams at an entrepreneurship competition provide support for our conceptual model. Our findings highlight the importance of psychological ownership for understanding how entrepreneurs can build successful new venture teams and offer practical guidance by specifying the concrete behaviors that are the key to this success.