Emerging from entrepreneurial failure: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of entrepreneurs’ post-failure career choice
Entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth and job creation by forming new ventures. However, not every entrepreneur succeeds. Failure is inseparable from entrepreneurship due to the uncertainties of new venture creation. Despite failure being an unpleasant and often dramatic experience, only some entrepreneurs exit after failure while others reenter and start another venture. While the literature is rich in explaining the advantages and disadvantages of failure for the individuals, previous studies did not investigate why some entrepreneurs leave entrepreneurship while others start again. This interpretative phenomenological analysis investigates entrepreneurs’ journeys after failure and explores how entrepreneurs choose their post-failure career. The thesis findings identified exit, reentry, and hybrid reentry as the three career paths post-failure, and presents a model that explains entrepreneurs’ post-failure career choice based on their motivation, threshold for acceptable losses, and learnings from failure. This thesis contributes to the literature in five ways. First, this thesis makes an important contribution to the scarce literature on entrepreneurial post-failure career choice by developing a model that explains and predicts post-failure career choice. Second, while literature has already identified intrinsic motivation from cognitive evaluation theory as a factor to encourage reentry, this thesis introduces self-determination theory as a more advanced theory of motivation into entrepreneurial failure research and explains how autonomous and controlled motivations influence reentry and exit. Third, the findings enrich entrepreneurial learning theory by unpacking the role of learning on reentry. Fourth, drawing upon the concept of acceptable losses, this study fills the literature gap on the impact of financial cost of failure on reentry. Finally, while hybrid entrepreneurship has been identified as an entry pathway into entrepreneurship, it has thus far not been recognised as a reentry path as identified in this research.