Which Are the Appropriate Skills Needed for the Entrepreneurial Success of Startups in the Era of Digitalization?

Which Are the Appropriate Skills Needed for the Entrepreneurial Success of Startups in the Era of Digitalization?

Amina Omrane (Faculté des sciences économiques et de gestion de Sfax, Tunisia & Institut des hautes études commerciales de Carthage, Tunisia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2714-6.ch014


Consistent with prior research on start-up entrepreneurship in this era of digitalization, this chapter is a theoretical study which aims at an in-depth understanding of the main specifics of start-ups. It mainly focuses on those ones localized in resource-constrained environments, by exploring the most relevant and effective competencies for them. The literature review enables the authors to identify five relevant kinds of skills which are related not only to specific social abilities, but also to other sorts of capabilities such as effectual and ambidextrous logics or resilience. Previous works have underlined that these skills have considerable and significant effects on the startups' entrepreneurial success. Consequently, it is recommanded that startup entrepreneurs develop them and learn how to foster them.
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In such an over-changing context characterized by a high digital revolution (called by the world economic forum-WEF- the digital age), increasing uncertainty and complexity (Gupta et al., 2004), managers as well as entrepreneurs are appealed to analyse the current new global business. They are also invited to indepth-understand social trends in order to survive and to gain competitive advantages. Indeed, in that era of digitalization, new phenomena appear, and organizations are witnessing many kinds of transformations related to their policies, as well as their strategic and operating systems. Technology is radically changing the way people live, communicate, and work, so that the WEF predicts that it will ensure 52% of current work tasks by 2025. Besides, new phenomena appear and seem to be more and more applied in big and well-known firms, such as Alibaba, Accenture, Facebook, or Airbnb. In such companies, new implemented systems and technologies, like Internet of Things (IOT), machinery automation and learning, artificial intelligence, drone phones, numerical technologies, industry 4.0, connected clouds, robotization programs, or smart buildings, had proved to be effective tools for their development. They can then be adopted by any other organization looking to move and expand its business in order to achieve its intended goals. Moreover, it was supported that such technologies’ potential to change how managers understand, analyse, work, and socialize, as well as their implications, will continue to grow up year after year (Ngoasong, 2018).

For these reasons, managers and entrepreneurs are called upon to adapt to current transformations and complex circumstances by analysing the environement they are leaving in. A SWOT analysis1, supported by digital technologies and connected markets, will also help them to capture the environmental opportunities and leverage the handicaps that threaten them in that digital economy (Zahra et al., 2014). In Africa, and more specifically in countries like Tunisia, the context is a resource-scarce environment, implying a great influence on entrepreneurs’ behaviors, as well as strategic orientations and decisions (Autio et al., 2014). Entrepreneurs are then conveyed to nourish relationships, and pursue new business opportunities in order to exploit them (Zahra et al., 2014; Cited in Ngoasong, 2017). By building trust and increasing employee implication and engagement, they will better meet customers’ needs and suit the rapid changes of society2. In this respect, entrepreneurs are called upon to develop various forms of venture companies based on diverse experiences, expertise, new technologies, as well as creative ideas. Such technology enterprises and/or start-ups are expected to offer new flexible business models which are more appropriate to customers’ expectations and generate high profits (Kim & Kim, 2018; Kim et al., 2018).

In this perspective, many governments have encouraged the creation of different technology companies’ forms and have chosen specific policies by establishing common geographic sites and spaces where such organizations can share common services and interorganizational exchange.

Furthermore, they are taking advantage, not only of social networks they are expanding thanks to their affiliation to a set of other competitive companies, but also of core competencies they are attracting and evolving during their existence (Zarefard & Cho, 2018; Kim et al., 2018). To be developed, such meta-competencies require, at a first stage, an entrepreneurial mindset that enables entrepreneurs to go beyond their weaknesses and the problems they have to tackle time over time and during their entrepreneurial process (Lerner & Damon, 2012, Cited in Obschonka et al., 2016). Then, a range of adaptable and dynamic skills will be also helpful for entrepreneurs who need to promote their access to new technologies/new knowledge, and to grow up better decision-making processes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Skill: the ability to understand the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of persons, including oneself, in interpersonal situations and to act appropriately upon that understanding.

Effectuation (effectual logics): an approach based on acting and experimenting with all the existing means and the resources given, instead of focusing on planning and wasting time in elaborating strategic plans before gathering the required resources and undertaking the appropriate actions.

Ambidextry: the ability to exploit the existing opportunities, and to explore new ones offered by the environment, so that the organization becomes aligned in its management of today’s business demands while simultaneously being adaptive to changes in the environment.

Resilience: the act of resolving conflicts, turning disruptive changes into new directions, learning from this process, and becoming more successful and satisfied in the process.

Digital skills: A range of abilities and knowledge to appropriately use digital devices and technology sources, communication applications, and networks, in order to input, access, manage, integrate and assess digital resources, as well as to construct new knowledge and create media expressions. They include technical and information processing skills.

Start-Up: a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable, sustainable, and scalable business model, by offering products/services, or innovative processes into markets with extreme uncertainty, but generating high added value and rates of innovation.

Design Thinking: a human-centered approach that brings creativity and user-centeredness to organizations, as a new way of working. It is based on translating customers’ needs and desires into design criteria by providing the underpinning for an ideation stage.

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