Mapping the intellectual structure of research on 'Born Global' firms and INVs: A citation/co-citation analysis.

Author:Garcia-Lillo, Francisco
Position:RESEARCH ARTICLE - Report

Abstract The present research paper shows the results of an analysis of the existing literature on one of the topics that has sparked the most interest among scholars and researchers in the fields of international management and entrepreneurship: bom global firms or international new ventures. Concretely, with the aim of identifying and visualising the intellectual structure of research on this phenomenon, a total of 124 research papers whose titles contain the above terms are analysed. The methodology is mainly based on the bibliometric techniques of document citation and co-citation analyses and the analysis of social networks.

Keywords Born global firms [??] International new ventures [??] International management [??] Entrepreneurship [??] Bibliometrics [??] Citation analysis [??] Document co-citation analysis (DCA) [??] Social network analysis (SNA)

JEL Classifications L26 . M13

1 Introduction

The phenomenon of born globals (Bell et al. 2001; Knight and Cavusgil 1996; Moen and Servais 2002; Sharma and Blomstermo 2003; among others), also known as international new ventures (Coviello 2006; Oviatt and McDougall 1994; Zahra 2005; among others), is one of the topics that has sparked the most interest recently among scholars and researchers in the fields of international management and entrepreneurship. However, it is also one of the most paradoxical (Garcia-Canal and Valdes-Llaneza 2015, p. 34) because they are usually newly created companies that manage to rapidly break into international markets. The paradox is that these early internationalised companies seem to challenge the validity of the most widely accepted theory on the internationalisation process: the model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments of Johanson and Vahlne (1977).

As mentioned above, many researchers have argued that the creation process of born globals is not sufficiently well explained by the existing traditional theories on international companies (e.g., Knight and Cavusgil 1996; McDougall et al. 1994). This is mainly because these perspectives tend to assume that companies internationalise after a certain time has passed since their creation (Johanson and Vahlne 1977). Thus, authors such as Coviello and McAuley (1999) indicate that under independent examination the theories of direct investment, the gradualist models of internationalisation and the network approach cannot adequately explain the internationalisation process that characterises born globals. In the opinion of these authors, the internationalisation of these companies is better explained by integrating the main theoretical frameworks in a holistic approach. Consequently, the literature on born global firms features models and conceptual frameworks that integrate different theoretical approaches.

Madsen and Servais (1997), for example, reach the conclusion that born global firms arise and develop in a way that has a certain concordance with the network approach and the evolutionary theory of the firm (Nelson and Winter 1982). In fact, the phenomenon is conceptualised through the establishment of explicit links with the model of Uppsala and other more recent theoretical approximations such as the network approach applied to company internationalisation (Johanson and Mattsson 1988). From the analysis of these theoretical links the above authors extract some specific propositions around the antecedents and conditions necessary for the future consolidation of born globals.

For their part, McDougall et al. (1994) develop a theory on these firms based on an integration of the approaches of international management, entrepreneurship and strategic management.

Weerawardena et al. (2007), to give a final example, present a conceptual model of the internationalisation of born global firms based principally, but not exclusively, on the perspective of dynamic capabilities. The authors argue that the most critical capabilities in these companies include learning from the market and internally, the capacity to develop networks and a high level of international marketing skills. These capabilities, in combination with the superior qualities of the company founders (such as having an international business orientation, previous international experience and a general orientation towards learning) lead these companies to be capable of developing knowledge intensive products that facilitate early internationalisation.

From a different point of view, although there is abundant literature on these born global firms, it is mainly based on their distinctive characteristics as opposed to the determining factors of their posterior evolution (Rialp et al. 2005, 2010). Among these distinctive characteristics are (Knight and Cavusgil 1996; Oviatt and McDougall 1994; Sharma and Blomstermo 2003; Zahra and George 2002): technological innovation, focusing on niche markets, the previous baggage of the promoters and participation in international networks. However, one factor that impedes the study of the evolution of born global firms is the diversity of companies that fall into this category. While some born globals are orientated towards exportation to a reduced number of countries, others are created already internationalising their value chain worldwide. The main factor that hinders us, however, is the diversity of applicable theoretical approaches. (1)

The present research paper aims to contribute to improving the current understanding of the phenomenon of born global firms, identifying the principal theoretical frameworks on which future research should be based. With regard to everything discussed above, the main objective of this investigation is to identify and visualise the intellectual structure of the literature on born global firms and to this end we apply document citation and co-citation analyses.

The rest of the paper is structured as follows. Sect. 2 discusses the data collection from the sources considered most appropriate and the methodology employed. The results of the author citation and co-citation analyses and a graphic representation of the intellectual structure of the literature on born global firms are presented in Sect. 3. The final section discusses the main conclusions and limitations of this research.

2 Data and Methods

The primary database from which the source documents were obtained is that of the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia: the Social Sciences Citation Index[R], available on-line through the Web of Science (WoS).

This citation database currently covers some 2474 of the world's leading journals in the field of social sciences across more than 50 disciplines. It is made available online through the Web of Science service for a fee. The Web of Science (WoS) provides information to identify the papers most frequently cited and by which publisher and author (even allowing access to the references cited in each paper). The database consultation date was July 20, 2015.

In particular, and with the aim of identifying and visualising the intellectual structure or knowledge base of research on born global firms and/or international new ventures, a total of 124 research papers published after the appearance of the paper by Oviatt and McDougall (1994) and whose titles contain these terms were analysed (see Fig. 1). The 124 papers have a total of 8307 citations with an average of 66.9 per paper. The frequency distribution of these references by years is shown in Fig. 2.

Only journal papers were considered, in other words, research papers, as opposed to books, doctoral dissertations or reviews and proceedings papers as only research papers can be considered as scientific knowledge in that they have been subject to peer review (Callon et al. 1993). The use of citations from research papers is standard practice for this type of study to increase the trustworthiness of results.



The documents obtained were downloaded in plain text form (.txt) and converted using Bibexcel[R], a public domain software available free on the Internet. This software was developed by Professor Olle Persson of the Institute of Information Sciences of the Swedish University of Umea specifically for the manipulation and treatment of bibliographic registers.

Bibexcel[R], among many other functionalities, offers the possibility of combining the information extracted from different areas of a bibliographic register, including the references cited, making frequency counts, analysing co-occurrence of diverse elements (authors, documents, journals, words, etc.) and the application of bibliographic coupling techniques.

In our case, the software was not only used for frequency counts of the citations in each document but also, once the data had been pre-processed and the citation threshold had been established, for the generation of the document co-citation matrix. To approach the intellectual structure from the vision provided by the social network analysis, we use the matrixes previously generated with Bibexcel[R], treat them with Pajek[R] and proceed to a visualisation through VOSviewer[R]. The different multivariate analyses were developed with the statistical package SPSS[R] v.23.

At this point it would be useful to point out that the analysis of scientific maps cannot be directly applied to the gross data collected from the bibliographic databases, but that it requires pre-processing. This data usually contains a multitude of errors and inconsistencies, mainly related to its codification. Sometimes, for example, there are elements that represent the same object, such as an author's name or the title of a journal which can be codified in many different ways (e.g., Knight, G or Knight Gary A, Strategic Management or Strategic Manage J) or the different editions of the same book. Accordingly, the data were subjected to an exhaustive normalisation process to guarantee their accuracy.

Given the impossibility of...

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