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The Science of Startups Initiative

The Science of Startups Initiative

Full project title: The Science of Startups Initiative (SOSI) - Understanding the determinants of success in entrepreneurship, startups and innovation ecosystems

Overview

This project aims to reveal the determinants of success in entrepreneurship, startups and innovation ecosystems using data science and qualitative research methods. 

Startup success is linked to a combination of factors at the market, firm, and founder levels. Here, we aim to disentangle the various determinants of success, with a focus on the founding team, their previous experiences and failures, and their personalities. 

In our current research, we focus on uncovering the extent to which the diversity of personalities in a team relates to their performance, how this influences venture capitalists’ investment decisions, and how it drives ultimate startup success.

Currently, the project employs a three-stage approach:

  • An interactive online survey-based experiment that draws on personality test questions to understand and catalogue founder personality types and the likelihood of engaging in entrepreneurship
  • A computational analysis of founder personality combinations that seeks to map the diverse team composition(s) that primes a startup for success 
  • A qualitative interview-driven study of venture capitalists that seeks to uncover the role that personality inference plays in investment decision-making

Lying at the nexus between computational social science, data science, psychology and economics, this project aims to disentangle the diverse factors that influence success in entrepreneurship with a focus on personality characteristics. The insights gained by the project inform (1) individual decision-making in engaging in entrepreneurship, (2) market definition of best-fit for success, (3) team composition in innovation ecosystems, and (4) societal perception of entrepreneurship. 

Modelling the determinants of success can help entrepreneurs (whether existent or aspiring), founders, investors, and tech policymakers alike understand the quantifiable characteristics and practical actions needed to nurture individual and collective success as well as innovation in tech ecosystems.

Engagement and events

We aim to disseminate the insights gained by the research activities of the Science of Startup Initiative widely within and beyond academia. As part of this mission, we present research findings at universities, scientific conferences, industry- and policy events, and we engage with media to inform and educate about the determinants of startup success and the role of personality diversity within it.

Events, presentations and project news will be announced on LinkedIn

Partners and Acknowledgements

The quantification of the success determinants of startup ecosystems relies critically on the availability of large-scale and system-wide data to measure and disentangle the various influential factors in an empirical way.

At the same time, our research benefits from the experience and knowledge shared by experts in the industry. Therefore, we want to thank all individuals and stakeholders from the industry for advice, insights, and support of our Initiative.

In particular, we are grateful to Campus Founders for the ongoing collaboration, to Crunchbase for the provision of data, as well as to BuiltWith, Influx, TeamSlatts, and AirTree Ventures for insights about startups, founders and venture investments.

This research was supported by funding from the Oxford Internet Institute’s Research Programme on AI & Work, funded by the Dieter Schwarz Stiftung gGmbH.

Key Information

Funder:
  • Dieter Schwarz Stiftung gGmbH
  • Project dates:
    March 2024 - June 2026

    All Publications

    Journal articles

    Participants

    Sophia Arthen

    Sophia Arthen

    Technical University of Berlin

    Project role: Research Student

    Sophia is an economics student at the Technical University of Berlin, researching social networks and startup economics. As a PR consultant, she works closely with family businesses and startups.

    Videos

    Research Ethics and Data Privacy

    We are committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards in research with human participants throughout the project. Accordingly, the research project is covered by a Research Ethics Form (CUREC 1A, Ref No: SSH_OII_CIA_22_022) approved by the Oxford Internet Institute’s Departmental Research Ethics Committee (DREC) in accordance with Oxford University’s procedures for ethical approval of all research involving human participants. 

    Ensuring anonymity of personal information is of utmost importance to SOSI. As such, for the data publicly released (see below), we use differential privacy to ensure individual founders cannot be linked to companies. Additionally, we use statistical privacy techniques such as k-anonymity to ensure companies cannot be identified from their characteristics. Depending on whether companies or individuals are repeated in the data, we used a hashing algorithm and random numerical labelling to anonymise individual and company names.

     

    Code and Data Availability

    The code and (anonymised) data to replicate the main findings of the study ‘The impact of founder personalities on startup success’ are available on GitHub.

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