Inside the incubator – business relationship creations among incubated firms

PublikationArtikel (med peer review)
Business relationship, Christina Öberg, incubator


Incubators, as providers of advice and resources, suggest fostering the development of early-idea firms. Literature and practice seem to suggest an ever-increasing amount of incubator support. The creation of business relationships is at the heart of any business development, and this paper addresses whether a laissez-faire incubator fosters the creation of business relationships. The purpose of this paper is to explore the creation of business relationships among incubated firms during and after their time in the incubator along with the roles that these relationships play for the incubated firms.

Empirically, the paper is based on retrospective interviews with representatives of all incubated firms in a university incubator. A total of fifteen interviews were conducted with representatives of the incubated firms, the incubator and its owners, complemented by secondary data sources.

The paper points out three antecedents for business relationship creation: the lack of experience and connections; convenience; and trust based on the interactions with others in the incubator. These antecedents are connected to the roles of transforming businesses and of adaptation in the dyadic relationships. The laissez-faire incubator helped through the learning-by-doing among the incubated firms, which made them focus on business relationship creation from early on.

Most incubator research portrays the unilateral transfer of knowledge from the incubator to the incubated firm, with the latter being a service taker rather than a co-producer. The paper adds knowledge about business relationships among firms in incubators and the roles that these business relationships could play for the firms. The focus on an incubator providing limited support is of high practical relevance, given the trend of incubators facilitating more and more services.

Öberg, C., Klinton, M. & Stockhult, H. (2020). Inside the incubator – Business relationship creations among incubated firms.Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 35(11), 1767-1784.

Liknande innehåll

Spin-in and spin-out for growth – On the acquisition and divestiture of high-tech firms
Artikel (med peer review)Publikation
Öberg, C.



Purpose: This paper describes and discusses company spin-ins and spin-outs as a means to understand company growth in a dynamic context. The following question is asked: How can growth be understood in spin-ins and spin-outs of innovative firms? The paper suggests return on capabilities as a measure to understand growth in an open innovation context.

Design/methodology/approach: The empirical part of the paper consists of a single case study. Data was captured through interviews and secondary data sources.

Findings: The paper points to that resources alone do not explain strategic decisions by a company and how spin-ins and spin-outs result from the need for capabilities, changes in business foci and temporary solutions to deal with overcapacities or lack of alternatives.

Originality/value: The paper contributes to research by discussing contemporary issues in strategy and innovation and relating them to the resource-based view and the growth of the firm. Spin-outs, and acquisitions and divestitures as interlinked events have rarely been focused on in the literature, while they remain frequent phenomena in practice.

Open marketing – Conceptualizing external parties’ strategic marketing activities
Artikel (med peer review)Publikation
Öberg, C.



Open marketing as conceptualized in this paper refers to how external parties take part in strategic, integrative marketing activities. To distinguish this more recent trend in marketing from traditional meanings of marketing, the paper provides a typology on roles and role keepers in marketing. Four types of roles and role keepers are outlined: marketing as 1) solely being performed by actors in the supplier company communicating offerings, 2) an activity shared among functions of the supplier company, 3) external parties communicating offerings, and 4) external parties contributing to strategic marketing. Using the concept of ‘roles’ in marketing helps to structure activities and actors – or roles and role keepers – and provides a basis for understanding that marketing results from what is done, not merely from who performs it. The paper underlines how new ways of conducting business also have implications for a company’s marketing beyond its borders.

Tension in networks
Artikel (med peer review)Publikation
Öberg, C., Dahlin, P. & Pesämaa, O.



Tension refers to contradictions and mostly implies any two parties disagreeing. This paper extends the lens from tension on dyadic levels to describe it in the smallest of networks: the triad. Adopting a multiple-case study methodology illustrating triadic relationships in three different settings, the paper points to how tension may occur among firms in a triad, relate to two of them, or involve all three parties. In the handling of tension and opposed to the dyadic relationship, a single party cannot easily disconnect from all its network parties, and the network discussion thereby contextualises the discussion on tension, while putting focus on the dynamics of tension. As the findings indicate, the handling may, namely, lead to new tension on a dyadic or triadic level. Compared to studies grasping tension as contradictions between two parties and thereby as a research contribution, this present study indicates how the tension may “move” around the network as initial tension is dealt with. If tension is handled through diffusion specifically, including the connection with new parties, it suggests to without exception lead to new tension, while coalition leads to decreased tension in the triad.

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