The literature in business and management studies presents trade-offs (either/or) and paradoxes (both/and) as two different approaches of making choices. However, research in entrepreneurship has not analyzed entrepreneurial decisions through a paradox and a trade-off approach. Using insights from unstructured interviews with founders of start-ups in health care and medical devices industry in Cambridge (MA, USA), this study explores two approaches entrepreneurs follow while making decisions, a trade-off versus a paradox approach. Four dimensions emerge from the analysis: technology, market, customer, and team. Results show that within each dimension, in some cases successful entrepreneurs consider a trade-off approach (e.g. technology push over market pull, simplicity over complexity, or breakthrough over incremental). In other cases, they take a paradoxical approach (e.g. passion versus preparedness, improvisation versus planning, exploitative versus explorative innovations, a reactive versus a pro-active approach). Occasionally founders consider a trade-off approach in an early stage and move to paradox later (e.g. when deciding about listening to early versus late adopters or when selecting a single versus multiple market applications). Because of high certainty, a paradoxical approach occurs more often at a later stage of venture creation.
- Decision making
- Entrepreneurial performance