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Choosing Team Members versus Ideas: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Entrepreneurial Team Performance
Last registered on May 19, 2016


Trial Information
General Information
Choosing Team Members versus Ideas: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Entrepreneurial Team Performance
Initial registration date
May 19, 2016
Last updated
May 19, 2016 4:47 AM EDT
Primary Investigator
Hamburg University of Technology
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
European School of Management and Technology
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
PR230 (Innovation Growth Lab, Nesta)
With the rise of novel institutions for new venture creation, such as accelerators, incubators, company builders, and corporate venturing, a plethora of patterns can be observed how early-stage entrepreneurship is organized. Oftentimes, these institutions make an attempt to professionalize team formation by deliberately assigning team members and topics with the aim of achieving higher complementarity between team members and their innovation topic than would have been achieved with purely endogenous choices by the founders themselves.

The existing entrepreneurship literature tells us that most entrepreneurs choose team members they know well when starting their companies. While this can carry benefits of being familiarized and building on prior shared experiences, it can also favor comfort, complacency and uniformity. Existing research does not provide convincing evidence whether such endogenous team formation leads to more successful entrepreneurial teams or not. On the other hand, there is also no empirical evidence to date on whether and how these novel institutions are effective in fostering early-stage entrepreneurial success by their deliberate means of forming entrepreneurial teams.

We systematically investigate the factors that make team formation effective in early-stage entrepreneurship: exogenous (i.e. pre-assigned) versus endogenous (i.e. self-selected) team formation based on team members versus based on business topics to be explored. More concretely, we are interested in the following research question: How is performance in early-stage entrepreneurship helped or hindered by team formation based on (i) endogenous selection of team members and/ or (ii) endogenous selection of topic, compared to an exogenous pre-assignment of team members and topics? What is the better model: freedom in team members and topic choice or pre-assignment?

We implement a large-scale field experiment in a German university, whose students are required to take an introductory entrepreneurship class. At the end of this class, equal-sized teams of students must submit a business plan in form of startup pitch deck. The first treatment dimension in our two-by-two experimental design pertains to the assignment of team members: students are randomly assigned to either endogenous choice of team members or exogenous pre-assignment of team members. The second treatment dimension applies to the assignment of topics: students will either be allowed to select a topic of their choice or be pre-assigned to a topic. The outcome of interest will be performance in this business plan exercise as well as changes in entrepreneurial self-efficacy and motivation. Randomization will permit us to causally identify if successful team performance rests on choosing ideas versus team members.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Dahlander, Linus and Christoph Ihl. 2016. "Choosing Team Members versus Ideas: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Entrepreneurial Team Performance." AEA RCT Registry. May 19. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1179-1.0.
Former Citation
Dahlander, Linus, Christoph Ihl and Christoph Ihl. 2016. "Choosing Team Members versus Ideas: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Entrepreneurial Team Performance." AEA RCT Registry. May 19. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1179/history/8321.
Experimental Details
No public intervention information is available at this point.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
team performance evaluated by external judges, changes in entrepreneurial self-efficacy and motivation
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
No public experimental design information is available at this point.
Experimental Design Details
We intend to conduct a field experiment at Technische Universität Hamburg (TUHH), a large public German university. We propose to run a randomized control trial with a two-by-two between-subject design, described in Table 1: Topic: Team Membership: Endogenous (Chosen) Exogenous (Assigned) Endogenous (Chosen) Treatment 1 Treatment 2 Exogenous (Assigned) Treatment 3 Treatment 4 Table 1: Treatments Students will be randomly assigned to one of the four treatment arms described above. Nobody actively participating in the intervention—students, their tutors, or the outcome evaluators—will be aware that they are experimental subjects. We will use simple randomization to assign each student to one of the four treatment arms described in Table 1. Baseline survey data will permit us to conduct balance checks to ensure that randomization has been correctly implemented.
Randomization Method
Randomization is done in office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
team level
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
300+ teams
Sample size: planned number of observations
1000+ students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1/4 per treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB Name
Dean of the Business Faculty at Hamburg University of Technology
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)