The startup ecosystem in Austria is established, however looking at European standards, Vienna and Austria do not represent the most important startup hubs in Europe.
A reasonable explanation for this condition serves the fact that entrepreneurship is not the first thought that comes in mind, when thinking about Vienna, given Austria’s culture. Knowing this and working in this area since the beginning of the internet (all the partners of the study have a long history in this industry), this study focuses on collecting data about the startup field.
In contrast with the Austrian Startup Monitor, which measures every year the development of the ecosystem in a statistical way, this study aims to collect psychometric profiles of Startup Founders.
Who is involved?
The psychometric study Startup Anatomy has been conducted by Speedinvest Heroes Consulting GmbH in cooperation with the following partners:
- Vienna Business Agency
- Austria Wirtschaftsservice AWS
- Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft FFG
- Uniqa Ventures
- Female Founders
- Austrian Startups
- ITO (Individuum, Team, Organisation PM gmbh): the Tool- and Scientificpartner with the Online Tool MINDONE Potential
- MA23 Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Statistik der Stadt Wien
Goals of the study and main objective
As part and prelude of our long-term research, this study aims to test three hypotheses, thereby generating first implications for both private companies and public institutions, which are also related to startups:
- Startup founders possess different characteristics compared to corporate managers.
- Successful founders have a distinctive personality. The growth of startups is related to (a combination of) the founders’ characteristics.
- Female founders possess different qualities than their male counterparties.
These questions accompanied the startup scene for years now, but have so far been unanswered, as data in this area is a scarcity and non-existing in Austria.
The novel insights will contribute to the development of support programs for startups and founders, especially female founders.
The data collection was first initiated in early February 2019 and officially ended at the beginning of September 2019. Speedinvest Heroes Consulting GmbH did not try to reinvent the wheel, but instead to carefully select the most profound current test measures, by iteratively testing different approaches. This led to ultimately choose multiple standardized tests, which suit the specific needs and enable to create a holistic picture of the psychometric profile.
Over the last two years, Speedinvest Heroes Consulting GmbH has used the multidimensional analysis tool MINDONE Potential with over 90 founders in order to provide them with concrete feedback and support to target their development. In contrast to common personality tests, the MINDONE Potential instrument is not exclusively a personality test, but it analyses motivation, personality, occupational interests and thinking and learning styles. The resulting test battery, consisting of four subtests, has proven to be a valid and reliable instrument to analyze startups teams and founders since its prior adaptation for team assessment purposes was successful. The test is used in different products as an analyzing tool and received highly positive feedback from the founder’s target group. With this practical experience, Speedinvest Heroes Consulting GmbH was able to test the first hypothesis for the study.
Several previous studies examined the interrelationship between personality and founding intention, as well as personality and founding success. In many cases, however, the studies did not include an appropriate control group, which precludes drawing empirically founded conclusions (Frese, 2007). This is why, in this study, we compared the founders to a homogeneous control group of corporate managers, working in various established Austrian companies with comparable characteristics regarding experience, education, age, and gender.
The confirmatory study aims to test three hypotheses, by measuring, clustering and comparing all variables, which are collected through the online survey of MINDONE Potential and a customized socio-economic questionnaire.
Recruiting of probands
The probands were gathered through both an active and passive approach. The active selection, including approaching potential probands was based on work-related networks from all study partners. All the partners had to extract just the Austrian startups in their databases and send out their own invitations for the study.
The Startup Anatomy study was conducted online. After founders had registered on the website, each participant received a personal access link via email in order to sign up for the MINDONE platform. Subsequently, the participants were required to complete four psychological questionnaires, each covering a different factor (motivation, occupational interest, thinking style and personality traits).
The test took approximately 90 minutes to complete. The test-items were designed in a “forced-choice” format. Accordingly, the participants were required to choose one out of four statements that they agreed with the most and one out of those four statements that they agreed with the least.
The experimental (entrepreneurs) and the control group (corporate managers) are compared in the following four individual characteristic sets:
- Professional/occupational interests;
- Thinking style.
Below the detailed description of the variables and subtests is presented.
This subtest has its theoretical foundation in Maslow’s need hierarchy and its variation, Alderfer’s Existence, Relatedness, and Growth (ERG) Theory, Herzberg’s 2-factor theory of motivation and McClelland’s concept of learned needs.
Derived from all of the theories above, this subtest measures the following 9 dimensions:
- Recognition – Opportunities for professional advancement, praises and higher professional status;
- Material award – Financial and other similar incentives, a strong system of financial bonuses;
- Affiliation – Good team atmosphere, the opportunity for working with other team members on accomplishing common goals, feeling accepted and supported, teamwork;
- Autonomy – Opportunity for independent work, freedom in making decisions, working without control and supervision;
- Flexibility – Independent management of own time, good balance of personal and professional life, informal atmosphere, opportunity to independently decide about the way in which the goals would be reached;
- Influence – Influencing others, opportunities to change their opinion, influencing future company development;
- Achievement – Challenging tasks, great expectations, competitive environment, clear goals, responsibility for own results;
- Personal development – Opportunities for education and further development, both personal and professional;
- Meaning and values – Participation in activities perceived as meaningful and harmonized with one’s personal system of values.
2. Occupational interests
This subtest is based on Holland Occupational Themes (RIASEC), a theory of careers and vocational choice based upon personality types. It was developed by psychologist John L. Holland.
MINDONE Potential goes a step further and inspects two separate, independent dimensions per each of 6 Hollands types, thus providing information on a total of 12 dimensions in this subtest:
- Physical – Physical activities requiring significant use of hands and arms as well as working outdoor;
- Practical – Manual work, working with machines and simple mechanical repairs;
- Analytical – Research and data collection, theoretical discussions and analysis of complex concepts;
- Technical – Technology, development of technical devices and/or software, repair and maintenance of complex devices;
- Art and Culture – Exposure to different artistic experiences (books, movies, theatre, music, museums…);
- Creative – Expressing oneself in a creative, original way, creating something new;
- Helping/Supporting – Assisting, teaching and supporting other people, social activities in different fields;
- Networking – Spending time with other people, socialization, creating contacts and network of acquaintances;
- Leading – Leading others, convincing, telling others what to do and how;
- Commercial activities – Business development, sales, generating profit, decreasing costs and other similar commercial activities;
- Administrating processes – Organising and administering existing projects;
- Transforming processes – Developing and implementing new work procedures.
3. Thinking Styles
This subtest is based on a model proposed by Antony F. Gregorc, describing different learning styles rooted in the way individuals acquire and process information. This model is based on the existence of perceptions—our evaluation of the world by means of an approach that makes sense to us. These perceptions in turn are the foundation of our specific learning strengths or learning styles.
Based on this, MINDONE Potential takes of 4 dimensions into account:
- Action – initiative in transforming plans into concrete activities and strong focus on solutions;
- Reflection – interest in discovering reasons of why something happens, interest in abstract concepts and theories or in understanding people and interpersonal relations in an intuitive way;
- Flexibility – adjusting to changes and quickly processing new information, experimenting, creativity, intuitionism and innovativeness;
- Structure – organising information into logical and structured/sequential forms, striving for order and clear rules.
These dimensions stand in opposition to one another in the following pairs: Action vs. Reflection, Structure vs. Flexibility, which means that a high result on one dimension implies a low result on the other, and vice versa.
Based on the Big Five model, this part takes into account 11 separate dimensions:
- Resilience – Stability in stressful and emotionally complex situations, resilience to pressure and difficulties;
- Self-discipline – Preparedness for quick and timely response, ability to resist challenges and distractions, undertaking responsibilities;
- Assertiveness – Self-confident and strong appearance, dominance in social interactions;
- Activity level – Readiness for action, high energy level, proneness to multitasking;
- Decisiveness – Making quick decisions in difficult situations;
- Sociability – Proneness to spending time with people, enjoying the company of others;
- Trust – Trust in people and their good intentions, positive attitude;
- Orientation on norms – Proneness to order and tidiness, following rules and keeping promises, feeling of responsibility;
- Willingness to compromise – Tendency to resolve arguments in a mutually acceptable way, cooperativeness;
- Emotionality – Empathy and sympathy, recognising own and other people’s emotions;
- Intellectual curiosity – Intellectual openness, curiosity, interest in new ideas and theories.
Moreover, the subtests were complemented by a two-fold questionnaire, where both socio-economic background and team roles were examined.
5. Socio-economic questionnaire
The customized questionnaire collected data on the founder’s age, gender, education, industry, work/startup experience, and so on. In the group statistical analysis, all personal data were treated anonymously. The questionnaire further collected data on their startup company, such as startup capital, way of funding, headcount (starting and current), or invested work hours. One question examined the success status of the company, i.e. how the founders assessed the company’s success (better than expected, as expected, worse than expected).
In order to be able to compare the data in the future, the whole test was aligned with the questionnaire from the Austrian Startup Monitor.
6. Team roles
The last part of the questionnaire dealt with their function and team role, using the Belbin’s Team Roles theory as a basis, and how this role changed from the beginning of start-up to today (Belbin 1981, 1993). This theory suggests that every team needs to incorporate people who have different team roles, in order to build a balanced and effective team. Once every team member understands their role within the team, they can further develop their strengths and improve their weaknesses to give a greater contribution to the overall team success.
The following are team roles as defined by the Belbin theory:
- Shapers are the ones who not only challenge the team to improve, but are also people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches to solving various problems.
- Implementers are people who get things done and put others’ ideas and concepts into practical action plans and steps.
- Completer-Finishers are people who make sure that projects are completed thoroughly, within the given deadline. They pay specific attention to details and ensure that there have not been errors or omissions.
- Coordinators are the ones who take the traditional role of team leader, someone who delegates tasks to others on the team based on their abilities and guides the team toward objectives.
- Team workers are people who make sure that team members are cooperating and working together effectively. They have the role of negotiator within the team members.
- Resource Investigators are people who explore new opportunities, investigate available options, develop contacts and negotiate resources on behalf of the team.
- Plants are the creative innovators, who present novel ideas and new, unconventional approaches in work.
- Monitor-Evaluators are people best at objectively evaluating and analyzing ideas that others have come up with while taking into account the pros and cons.
- Specialists are people who are experts thanks to their specific knowledge and abilities.