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Research seminar | A historical approach to international entrepreneurship in family businesses

On October 11, the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum) and the Center for Family Enterprise at the House of Innovation (HOI) hosted an afternoon seminar on international entrepreneurship from a historical perspective.

International entrepreneurship (IE) is often researched from a modern global economy perspective, linked to recent waves of globalization. The first wave of globalization, around the turn of the 20th century, and more specifically the internalization of companies during this first wave, are less discussed in literature.

In this seminar, Misum and HOI Affiliated Researcher Tanja Leppäaho presented findings from the work in progress research “Historical Approach to International Entrepreneurship: Embedded Change Agents Making their Way to the International Marketplace”. Tanja is a Research Fellow at the Academy of Finland, a Professor in Growth Entrepreneurship at LUT University, and a leading scholar on family firm internationalization. The paper is co-authored with Sarah Jack (Misum, HOI), Satu Vesin (Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT) and Rolv Petter Amdam (BI Norwegian Business School).

The researchers use archival data on two long-enduring Finnish companies with family CEOs to study how entrepreneurs internationalized their firms at the end of the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century. The paper contributes to understanding the foundations of successful family enterprise internationalization.

For any questions contact andreea.preluca@hhs.se 

Full paper abstract:

In this study, we explore how two entrepreneurs, Antti Ahlström and Gustaf Adolf (G.A.) Serlachius from Finnish world-leading paper companies currently known as Ahlström-Munksjo and Metsä Group practiced international entrepreneurship (IE) in relation to their network context in the later part of the 19th and the turn of the 20th centuries. We rely on the premises of the theory of structuration and embeddedness, emphasizing the necessity to study both actors and context and the interpersonal networks to capture the links in-between these two. We analysed historical data that consisted of personal correspondence, diaries and secondary historical data sources. Our study allows us to widen IE theorizing. We develop the concept of embedded change agency to theorize on how international entrepreneurs were influencing on the surrounding societal context to enable successful international enterprising. While doing everything they could themselves (e.g. ship-building, acquiring rapids in the wilderness, advocating equality, social wellbeing and business policy), they influenced on political decisions in the favour of e.g. railways, harbours, icebreakers and worker conditions. This was possible through their wide-ranging embeddedness not only to business and technological networks, but also to political and social networks, such as artists, with whom they also showed off abroad.

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