Stone, Tobias (2018) AN EXAMINATION OF STARTUP ACCELERATORS USING SOCIAL NETWORK THEORY. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis combines a literature review and a case study in order to examine startup accelerators as social networks. The literature review looks at two distinct bodies of research; the first on Social Network Theory, in order to create a framework within which to describe an accelerator as a social network, the second on startup accelerators in order to understand their structure and evolution as business support programs. The case study uses EyeFocus Accelerator, founded by this researcher, to test some of the ideas formulated from the literature.

The literature demonstrates that accelerators are social networks, and the dynamics between the different actors in those networks can be explained and defined using the vocabulary and concepts of Social Network Theory. This describes the structure of the accelerator network, and how such a network is able to reward people with Social Capital, which is observed in this thesis to be the currency of accelerators.

Consequently, the unique nature of the research in this thesis is to describe accelerators using the language and concepts of Social Network Theory, providing new insights into how and why accelerators work.

This understanding identifies that value in accelerators lies in their ability to facilitate the flow of non-redundant information, and to provide early access to this information. Creating this value also enables accelerators to withdraw access to that value as a threat of sanction against bad actors.

Other aspects of the social network structure and behaviour of accelerators are examined, including the tendency of weak ties and non-redundancy of information to decay over time, suggesting that this may explain the typical fixed term of most accelerators.

Combined, this theory leads to an accelerator being described as a dynamic social network with a high level of closure at the core, set within a weak network architecture, with many weak ties, and consequently many bridging ties. It is policed using link reciprocity, and its currency is Social Capital. The skill used to operate in this network involves having complex role and status sets.

Stone THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
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