The incremental expansion of Born Internationals: A comparison of new and old Born Internationalsby Martin Johanson, Oscar Martín Martín

International Business Review


Finance / Business and International Management / Marketing


The incremental expansion of Born Intern

Sw /n,

International Business Review 24 (2015) 476–496 he a ir so nt h wh

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

International Bu jo u rn al h om epag e: ww w.els1. Introduction

Over the last 30 years, a number of different internationalization theories and models have been proposed. Among them, some relatively new approaches have given rise to what have been labeled ‘‘Born Globals’’ (e.g., Andersson & Wictor, 2003; Aspelund &

Moen, 2001; Autio & Sapienza, 2000; Chetty & Campbell-Hunt, 2004; Freeman & Cavusgil, 2007; Gleason & Wiggenhorn, 2007;

Knight & Cavusgil, 1996; Kudina, Yip, & Barkema, 2008;

Kuivalainen, Sundqvist, & Servais, 2007; Madsen, Rasmussen, &

Servais, 2000; Moen, 2002; Rasmussen, Madsen, & Evangelista, 2001; Sharma & Blomstermo, 2003; Weerawardena, Sullivan Mort,

Liesch, & Knight, 2007), ‘‘Global Start-ups’’ (Oviatt & McDougall, 1994), ‘‘High-Technology Start-ups’’ (Jolly, Alahuhta, & Jeannet, 1992), and ‘‘International New Ventures’’ (e.g., Autio, 2005;

Coviello, 2006; Fan & Phan, 2007; McDougall, Oviatt, & Shrader, 2003; McDougall, Shane, & Oviatt, 1994; Mudambi & Zahra, 2007;

Oviatt & McDougall, 1994; Servais & Rasmussen, 2000).

In this paper we refer to all of these phenomena as Born

Internationals (BIs). Broadly speaking, we consider them to be firms that have been operating in foreign markets from a very early date, that is, from the time they started doing business or soon after. This general definition implies that ‘‘Born Globals,’’ ‘‘Global Start-ups,’’ ‘‘High-Technology Start-ups,’’ and ‘‘International New Ventures’’ can be considered BIs, but not all BIs are, for instance, Born Globals. Our

BI concept is based on the sole, and less restrictive, criterion of ‘‘time to internationalization,’’ and our focus is on the more general phenomenon of early internationalizing firms.

Most research on these firms focuses on their unique characteristics and early years of operation (e.g., Chetty &

Campbell-Hunt, 2004; Rasmussen et al., 2001). In contrast, there is scant empirical literature (and, to the best of our knowledge, virtually none with a quantitative perspective) about the characteristics of BIs after some years of operation. This gap is important mainly for academia, but also for managers and policy makers. It is important for academia because our knowledge about the way BIs internationalize is limited, which offers research opportunities to scholars focusing on the later years of these firms’ existence. Zahra (2005) raised a question about what happens to

BIs when they grow up. Similarly, Chetty and Campbell-Hunt’s (2004) findings call for a study based on quantitative data to obtain an understanding of what happens with BIs when they grow older.

Born Internationals (BIs)

International commitment

International experience

International performance,

Internationalization sample of SMEs. The results support the basic cumulative dynamics proposed by the incremental school in terms of international business experience, international commitment, and level of internationalization, which implies that these factors can to some extent be viewed as driving forces in the internationalization process of BIs.  2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. * Corresponding authors at: Uppsala University, Department of Business,

Economics and Law/Department of Business Studies, 85170 Sundsvall/75120

Uppsala, Sweden. Tel.: +46 60 148474; fax: +46 018 4716810 (M. Johanson); Public

University of Navarre, Campus Arrosadı´a s/n, 31006 Pamplona, Navarre, Spain.

Tel.: +34 948166082; fax: +34 948169404 (O. Martı´n Martı´n).

E-mail addresses:, (M. Johanson), (O. Martı´n Martı´n). 1 Both authors have contributed equally to this paper. 0969-5931/ 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights and old Born Internationals

Martin Johanson a,b,1,*, Oscar Martı´n Martı´n b,c,1,* aDepartment of Business, Economics and Law, Mid Sweden University, 85170 Sundsvall, bDepartment of Business Studies, Uppsala University, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden c Public University of Navarre, Business Administration Department, Campus Arrosadı´a s


Article history:

Received 24 August 2014

Accepted 3 October 2014

Available online 11 November 2014


Born Globals


Not much is known about t scant empirical literature –

Internationals (BIs) after the

BIs and determine whether birth features. This study co evidence on key post-birth c in the BIs’ profile and tests ationals: A comparison of eden 31006 Pamplona, Navarre, Spain characteristics of ‘‘early internationalizers’’ in their later life and there is nd an acute need for quantitative studies – about the features of Born first years of operation. In this context, we aim to describe the later life of me of the critical aspects of internationalization are visible in their postributes to the literature on internationalization by providing quantitative aracteristics of BIs. Guided by five research hypotheses, it explores changes ether or not there are differences between newer BIs and older ones in a siness Review evier .c o m/lo cat e/ ibu s rev

M. Johanson, O. Martı´n Martı´n / International Business Review 24 (2015) 476–496 477A little bit earlier, there were also calls for more empirical research on BIs, particularly for studies with a post-birth (Madsen & Servais, 1997) and quantitative (Sharma & Blomstermo, 2003) perspective.

Turning to managers and public policy makers, knowledge that alleviates the lack of quantitative studies about BIs’ post-birth features will provide them with a first benchmark with which to compare the international characteristics of these firms and to design assistance programs tailored to the firms’ particular needs.

Against this background, this paper aims to cover this gap and answer two relevant questions in contemporary international business (IB) research: (a) What differences exist between key internationalization characteristics of young and old BIs? and (b)