logo SBA


Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-03282023-083317

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Immigrant and non-immigrant firms' strategic orientation and performance: the entrepreneur's migration experience as a source of entrepreneurial heterogeneity.
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Bianchi Martini, Silvio
correlatore Prof.ssa Doni, Federica
  • acculturation process
  • entrepreneurial heterogeneity
  • entrepreneurship
  • migration experience
  • performance
  • start-ups
  • strategic orientation
Graduation session start date
Release date
The thesis “Immigrant and non-immigrant firms' strategic orientation and performance: the entrepreneur's migration experience as a source of entrepreneurial heterogeneity” aims to address the differences between immigrant and non-immigrant firms’ strategic orientation and performance by investigating the role of the entrepreneur’s migration experience as a source of entrepreneurial heterogeneity. The thesis is organized as a collection of papers, for which Chapter 1 is dedicated to the Introduction, highlighting the background, research objectives and dissertation’s outline and Chapter 5 to Conclusions, presenting a summary of the results, contributions, and potential avenues for future research.

In Chapter 2 “Entrepreneurship by immigrants: emerging perspectives, interdisciplinary approaches, and future research agenda” a semi-systematic literature review (SSLR) on Immigrant Entrepreneurship has been conducted, highlighting the research gap related to the lack of contributions exploring the impact of migration experience on the entrepreneur’s characteristics and its role in influencing firm strategy and firm performance. Future research directions are discussed with specific regard to the need of employing an interdisciplinary approach that gains valuable insights from the long-standing European tradition in Entrepreneurship literature, which is prominently characterized by contributions debating the aspects related to organizational and individual-level analysis. Furthermore, the SSLR highlights how Immigrant Entrepreneurship research can develop based on the recent growth of interdisciplinary approaches in Entrepreneurship and Management in general; gathering insights from the literature dedicated to the individual perspectives of the entrepreneur. In this regard, several avenues for future research are presented, deepening how and with what contribution themes gained from studies on the personal characteristics of immigrants may help in enhancing the understanding of differences between immigrant and native firms in terms of strategy and performance. The study also offers a systematized discussion of the major theories, research disciplines, and key variables which characterized the Immigrant Entrepreneurship domain, presenting also methodologies and data collection strategies, and offering a summary of best practices and major themes followed in previous research.

In Chapter 3 “Migration as a source of entrepreneur heterogeneity: effects on firms’ entrepreneurial orientation (EO) and performance” a theoretical model of the relationship between the entrepreneur’s migration experience and firm performance has been built and tested. Building on SLT (Strategic Leadership Theory), the author tests if the migration experience of the entrepreneur influences firm
performance mediated by the firm’s Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO) dimensions. By locating EO as a mediator, it was possible to tease out some of the mechanisms by which founders’ backgrounds, personal experiences and individual characteristics can imprint the strategic decision-making process of the firm and translate into performance. Findings firstly show that there is a difference in terms of EO between immigrant and native firms and thus confirm that migration experience is a source of entrepreneurial heterogeneity able to impact the organizational level. Particularly, results demonstrate that the migrant condition is negatively related to Risk-taking and positively associated with Proactiveness. This variance derived from the migration experience does not always transmit into a difference in firm performance between immigrant and native firms. The paper aims to contribute to Strategic Management and Immigrant Entrepreneurship literature by explaining how an entrepreneur’s life experience, such as migration, can have a role in how the firm is led, demonstrating that native and immigrant firms show different levels of EO. It also aims to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between entrepreneurs’ attributes, EO and firm performance, confirming that EO could also have a double-sword impact on performance, being able to enhance or reduce them (Huang et al., 2021), highlighting also how the multidimensional conceptualizations of EO are able to emphasize different phenomena (Covin & Wales, 2018; Gupta & Wales, 2017). Future studies should extend the paper’s findings in other geographical and industrial contexts, and employ a broad variety of financial measures such as revenue, cash flow, return on assets, return on equity, and so forth to assess firm performance (Haber & Reichel, 2005), but also subjective non-financial measures such as perceived market share, perceived sale growth, customer satisfaction, loyalty, and brand equity etc. (Clark, 1999; Haber & Reichel, 2005).

Chapter 4 “Entrepreneurial Orientation of immigrant firms and the moderating role of the acculturation process” enhance the understanding of the relationship proposed and tested in Chapter 3. The study is specifically dedicated to deepening the relationship between migration experience and EO by identifying key variables of the acculturation process (acculturation orientations, sociocultural adaptation, psychological adaptation) which may moderate the relationship between immigrant entrepreneurship (as opposed to native entrepreneurship) and firm EO. The paper offers an understanding of which factors of the migration experience may lead to a consistent difference between native and immigrant entrepreneurs that would be so determinant for the individual to also impact the way the entrepreneur conducts the strategy of the firm. Specifically, the analysis shows that acculturation towards the home country negatively moderates the relationship between the entrepreneur’s migration experience and two items of EO: Proactiveness and Risk-taking. Looking at outcomes of acculturation, the paper highlights the positive moderating effect of psychological adaptation in the relationship between migration experience and Proactiveness, in accordance with the results of Chapter 3. It demonstrates that when the migration experience is supported by a high level of psychological adaptation, the latter strengthens the positive relationship between migration experience and Proactiveness. It means that when the entrepreneur experiences an adequate psychological adaptation, he/she may rely on the positive outcomes of the acculturation process which can positively impact Proactiveness. The study, by considering the acculturation process in the relationship between immigrant background and EO, aims to advance the Immigrant Entrepreneurship domain by proposing studies at the intersection of Entrepreneurship and Business Management, also able to gain valuable insights from other disciplines focusing on individual perspectives of the entrepreneur (Hahn et al., 2020; Hayton & Cholakova, 2012; Williamson et al., 2020). Furthermore, it aims to add knowledge of the cross-cultural literature (Simsek et al., 2015; Stinchcombe, 2000) for which entrepreneurs’ backgrounds, personal experiences and individual characteristics can imprint the strategic decision-making process of the firm. Future studies may deepen also the role of some specific cross-cultural capabilities (such as emotion management, positive mindset, language skills, and bicultural flexibility) as in Xu et al. (2019), and their role in helping reach a competitive advantage. Insight related to the role of cross-cultural experience in advancing some entrepreneurs’ capabilities might be interesting also referring to the literature studying the role of entrepreneurial education, which aims to offer knowledge on the personal experience, educational path and training process which may help the individual in conducting his/her entrepreneurial activity (see Thomassen et al., 2019 for a literature review on the topic).

Limitations of each paper of the present thesis have been deepened in the conclusive paragraph of each chapter, highlighting that the study of the present thesis is not conclusive and contains several limitations that should be accounted for in future research. Notwithstanding these limitations, the present thesis may represent a starting point in the study of the key insights concerning the effect of the migration experience in influencing firms’ strategy and performance.