Learning to Let Go: Social Influence, Learning, and the Abandonment of Corporate Venture Capital Practices
Strategic Management Journal, 2016
When do firms shut down practices? Prior research has shown that firms learn from the actions of other firms, both adopting and abandoning practices when their peers do. But unlike adoption decisions, abandonment decisions need to account for firms’ own experiences with the practice. We study the abandonment of corporate venture capital (CVC) practices in the U.S. IT industry, which has experienced waves of adoption and abandonment. We find that firms that make more CVC investments are less likely to abandon the practice, and are less likely to learn vicariously from other firms’ abandonment decisions, such that they are less likely to exit CVC when other firms do. Staffing choices also matter: hiring former venture capitalists makes firms less likely to abandon CVC practices, while hiring internally makes abandonment more likely. Plus, staffing choices affect how firms learn from the environment, as CVC managers pay attention to and learn more from the actions of firms that match their work backgrounds; i.e., firms that staff CVC units with former venture capitalists are more likely to follow exit decisions of VC firms, while those that staff with internal hires are more likely to follow their industry peers. Our results suggest that firms wanting to retain CVC practices should think carefully about the implementation choices they make, as they may be inadvertently sowing seeds of abandonment.