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The passion and the interests in life science venturing: Choosing economic insecurity and creative challenges over predictable careers

Journal article
Authors Alexander Styhre
Maria Norbäck
Published in European Journal of Innovation Management
Volume 22
Issue 1
Pages 175-192
ISSN 1460-1060
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Business Administration, Management & Organisation
Pages 175-192
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-08-201...
Keywords Economic compensation, Life science, Meaningful work, Start-up firms, Venture labour
Subject categories Business Administration

Abstract

Purpose: Passion and interest are the two principal drivers of competitive capitalism, and reconciling the two is conducive to a dynamic and welfare-generating economic system. On the level of the individual, the same categories can be applied to examining, for example, career choices, at times violating propositions regarding rational expectations as some categories of work include lower economic compensation or higher levels of risk than would be attractive to the median job applicant. The purpose of this paper is to examine how venture workers, employees of life, thinly capitalize science ventures, justify their career choices and how they act in order to create economic security for themselves and their families. Design/methodology/approach: The study is based on a qualitative data collection methodology and reports on empirical research material from a study of co-workers at life science start-ups. The sample includes salaried employees working at venture capital-backed start-up companies in the life science sector. Findings: The study indicates that passionate preferences regarding, for example, meaningful work in collaboration with peers, and the ability to participate in the creation of a new venture, have overshadowed the downside risks and the lower level of economic compensation vis-à-vis comparable work. Such findings indicate that deeply meaningful work is a useful analytical category, and that combinations of the favorable market pricing of skills and experiences, as well as state-funded welfare mechanisms, cushioning some of the market risk that employees are exposed to, will provide opportunities for venture labor, i.e. work done at thinly capitalized firms, such as start-ups, per se contributing to a dynamic industry. Originality/value: The study contributes to the innovation management literature as it examines the key role of salaried venture workers, i.e. workers that do not hold contracts, granting them the right to compensation when venture capital investors make an exit. In addition, the study also discusses the literature on deeply meaningful work, stressing that this is a useful analytical category.

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