Entrepreneurs in developing economies try to cope with weak or absent formal institutions—often referred to as “institutional voids”—by relying extensively on intermediary organizations such as business incubators and development organizations or informal institutions such as political, kinship, or family relationships. However, in many African countries, intermediary support is limited and informal institutions are also unreliable, adding risks and costs to doing business and increasing the severity of institutional voids in the surrounding ecosystem. So, how can we achieve our goals if both formal and informal institutions such as family and friends are not reliable?
We investigate the practices followed by 47 commercial entrepreneurs in Kenya to “work around” these severe institutional voids to achieve their goals of business creation and growth. We find that severe institutional voids stimulate the hybridization of goals to include social value creation, create a need for a more strategic orchestration of business relationships, and motivate entrepreneurs to proactively cross-brace the institutional infrastructure around them. We contribute by unveiling the important role of entrepreneurs as microinstitutional agents in
developing economies and by detailing how commercial and social goals become intertwined in the context of African entrepreneurship.
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In collaboration with: Alessandro Giudici, Benedetto Cannatelli, and Mario Molteni