Research – Selling Social Capital

I earned a Master of Social Science degree from the University of Colorado Denver’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program in spring 2016.

My thesis explored how technology accelerators provide social capital to entrepreneurs, and what impact that social capital has on those entrepreneurs.

Overview of my research below.

Cali Harris – Selling Social Capital – FINAL

Selling Social Capital:

United States-Based Accelerators That Sell Social Capital and the Startup Entrepreneurs Who Buy It

If luck is the meeting of preparedness and opportunity, then a startup accelerator organization affords a startup entrepreneur the environment in which they can rapidly increase the meeting of preparedness and opportunity. “It’s like a luck multiplier,” says entrepreneur Steve Krenzel, describing the Boulder, Colorado-based Techstars accelerator program. He continues, “You can make your own luck…but Techstars gives a huge initial boost to first-time founders.” Startup entrepreneurs like Krenzel can generate their own luck by calling on favors from friends, partnering with other businesses, asking for referrals to new customers, or by seeking the expertise and connections of mentors in their professional network. Networking methods such as these are considered the use of social capital. Startup entrepreneurs who want to add a “luck multiplier” to their social capital can participate in a startup accelerator, an intensive educational program that provides financial and social capital to startup entrepreneurs.

Key research questions:

Do accelerators, in fact, provide access to social capital?

In what ways do accelerators provide access to social capital to the startup entrepreneurs who are accepted into the programs?

How does an entrepreneur’s access to social capital change by going through an accelerator?

How does access to social capital contribute to the success of an entrepreneur’s company?

Does an accelerator directly provision the social capital, or simply set the stage for the entrepreneur to individually accrue social capital? In other words, who does the “work” of obtaining and using social capital?

Is the mentorship provided by an accelerator’s network of official program mentors valuable to an entrepreneur?

Do entrepreneurs believe the equity ownership in their company that they exchanged in order to enter the accelerator was worth the value they received from the program?

What are disadvantages to engaging with an accelerator program?

Is this artificially purchased social capital actually “real”?

Read the full-text research:

Cali Harris – Selling Social Capital – FINAL

  • Anurag Maloo अनुराग

    I loved it. This is going to be really helpful for everyone involved in building startup communities and growing entrepreneurial ecosystems via accelerator programs. Looking forward to learn more form your research findings, Cali! Keep me posted.

    • Anu, thanks friend! Will definitely share learnings with you.