“I never needed eyes to see”: Leveraging extreme challenges for successful venture creation




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Peer reviewed


Challenge-based entrepreneurship is a nascent research area that has sought to tackle a longstanding issue of how entrepreneurs may overcome extreme challenges. We seek fresh insights into this issue by researching entrepreneurs who face one of the most extreme physical challenges, namely of acute sight loss (“blindness”). While this condition carries social perceptions of extreme physical incapacity and performance limitations, there continue to be notable examples of entrepreneurs with permanent blindness. How do blind entrepreneurs overcome barriers resulting from their impairment? By observing and conversing with two blind serial entrepreneurs, we offer preliminary answers to this question by generating insights into processes of opportunity formation in which ideas are conceived and developed out of the entrepreneurs' challenges. Our chief finding is that our blind entrepreneurs instrumentalized their impairments for commercial or social purposes by creating ventures that leveraged public perceptions of blindness and disability. Accordingly, in their ventures, our entrepreneurs drew on distinctive attributes of their physical and social challenges as a means of exploiting narrow conceptions of disabled people's capabilities. These entrepreneurs therefore overcame their challenges by capitalizing on public conceptions of their limited capabilities. The subsequent Discussion offers research opportunities in and beyond challenge-based entrepreneurship by considering a number of theoretical and practical implications of the adaptive skills and attributes of our entrepreneurs that have enabled them to engage with popular “ableist” and medical, or “tragic”, perceptions of disability in original and positive ways.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Challenge-based view, Disability, Entrepreneurs, Opportunity formation, Social model, Venture creation


Ng., W. and Arndt, F. (2019) “I never needed eyes to see”: Leveraging extreme challenges for successful venture creation. Journal of Business Venturing, 11, e00125


Research Institute