“Actor-network theory and the entrepreneurial process” in Entrepreneurial Process and Social Network: A dynamic perspective, Edward Edgar Publishing, July 2016

Lamine, W., Fayolle, A., Chebbi, H. (2016) 

The success of emerging innovative firms is of profound importance. This success depends, of course, on support structures and programmes (Fayolle, 2004), but also on the ways in which nascent entrepreneurs interact with their environment. Although globalization and the global economic market have been discussed a great deal, innovations and knowl- edge are often produced locally by networks of actors situated in a given territory (Heraud and Levy, 2005; Littunen, 2000; Pecqueur, 1997; Rallet and Torre, 2005). Although many studies have sought to better identify the role and the importance of social networks in entrepreneurship (Hoang and Antoncic, 2003; Davidsson and Honig, 2003; Dubini and Aldrich, 1991; Witt, 2004; Hite, 2005; Jack, 2010; Martinez and Aldrich, 2011), the knowledge available today is still insufficient for understanding the complexity of this phenomenon in its entirety (Slotte-Kock and Coviello, 2010).

The purpose of the present study is, first, to improve our understand- ing of the creation process of innovative firms, with a particular focus on the specific characteristics of the survival/development phase (Bruyat and Julien, 2001; Fayolle, 2007); and, second, to contribute to the literature on entrepreneur networks by examining the dynamics of how ties are created and change over time (Jack et al., 2010). While this topic has generated considerable interest among scholars (e.g. Hoang and Antoncic, 2003; Stervinou and Legrand, 2008; Slotte-Kock and Coviello, 2010; Chabaud and Ngijol, 2010), we were surprised to find that few empirical studies have investigated the role of non-human objects in the dynamics of entre- preneurial networks, especially since the process of business creation is intrinsically a mixture of human and non-human elements (Bruyat, 1993; Jones et al., 2010).

Our empirical study observed the creation of an innovative company over a two-year period. This enabled us to better understand the condi- tions and the dynamics of how an entrepreneurial network is formed and crystallizes during the survival/development phase of the entrepreneurial process (Bruyat, 1993; Fayolle, 2007). This study, therefore, makes several contributions to the literature on social networks and the entrepreneurial process. First, this longitudinal, qualitative analysis enabled us to better understand the dynamics of the creation and development of entrepre- neurial networks (Hite, 2005; Jack, 2010; Slotte-Kock and Coviello, 2010). Second, drawing on actor-network theory (Callon, 1986a), we contribute to entrepreneurship theory by investigating the role of non-human ele- ments during the initial phases of the entrepreneurial process. This case study revealed that material objects were omnipresent throughout the process of business creation. More specifically, we focused on the role of technical artefacts in the process of network building and the increase in the nascent entrepreneur’s social capital (Davidsson, 2006). Third, the unit of analysis examined here differs from that used in most previous studies. Instead of focusing on the entrepreneur as the unit of analysis, we privi- leged changes in the entrepreneurial network itself (Jack et al., 2010). The latter, in turn, was used as a means of improving our understanding of the dynamics of the survival/development phase.