Mixed embeddedness and entrepreneurial ecosystem: two different approaches or simply a different terminology for the same concepts?




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British Academy of Management



Peer reviewed



Objectives: The aim of this paper is to explore the dimensions of two constructs, mixed embeddedness and entrepreneurial ecosystem that have been used in the entrepreneurship literature to showcase the environmental influence on specific groups of entrepreneurs, namely immigrant and high-growth entrepreneurs. We wanted to question whether these concepts that at first glance look similar are distinct. Prior work: The literature that underpins entrepreneurial ecosystem thinking, originally proposed by Isenberg (2010), highlights the importance of key elements that lead to the emergence of high-growth ventures in specific geographical locations. On the contrary, mixed embeddedness (Kloosterman et al., 1999) provides a framework for analysis of structural, regulatory and societal impediments that push immigrants into entrepreneurship. Both concepts are fuelling research in two sub-streams of the field with the key difference, being the object of research.

Approach: By adopting a systematised literature review process in this paper we reflect on 18 highly cited academic articles and reports from both research fields which help explore the reasons for creation of those theoretical constructs, key dimensions and purpose, as well as context within which those framework coalesce. We undertook comparative analysis that enabled us to review the extant literature and determine the need for further research.

Results: Similarities have been uncovered in terms of, the relevance of the external environment for both immigrant and high-growth entrepreneurs, the market and opportunity structure, the levels of human, social and financial capital and the impact of geographical proximity of support systems. However, the core differences come from the objects of research, the perceived negative/positive angle these concepts are underpinned by, and the relevance of these paradigms for specific developmental stages entrepreneurs are confronted with.

Contributions: Rather than regarding immigrant entrepreneurship as a completely separate stream of literature this paper makes a case for more inclusive research that accommodates these groups within the broader entrepreneurship literature. This calls for a new research paradigm, applicable across different streams of work that incorporates key dimensions of both frameworks as complementary and adds a time element. Value: In revealing the distinctive characteristics of entrepreneurial ecosystem and mixed embeddedness frameworks implications emerge for targeted support for immigrant entrepreneurs with high levels of human capital who will be better positioned to capitalise on their potential for growth and development of their firms.



Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Mixed Embeddedness, High growth, Human Capital, Immigrant Entrepreneurs


Gast, A., Vershinina, N., and Woldesenbet, K., (2016), Mixed embeddedness and entrepreneurial ecosystem: two different approaches or simply a different terminology for the same concepts? A developmental paper presented at BAM 2016 Annual Conference, 6-8th September, Newcastle, UK


Research Institute

Institute for Applied Economics and Social Value (IAESV)
Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI)