Relationships are a critical determinant of new venture success. My research focuses on relationship processes among new venture team members: how do relationships form and evolve among cofounders? I focus on these relationships because these connections can be the difference between new venture success and failure. I employ a variety of methods including archival data, field research, qualitative methods, and experimental designs.

Dissertation: Exploring the Puzzle of Functional Homophily in Founding Teams

Despite the long-term benefits of establishing a functionally complementary founding team, most entrepreneurs assemble a team of cofounders who are homophilous with respect to functional background. Drawing upon attraction theory I argue that entrepreneurs recognize the instrumental potential in partnering with functionally complementary cofounders but struggle to develop feelings of interpersonal attraction with these individuals. I enumerate behaviors that entrepreneurs and cofounders can express to bolster feelings of interpersonal attraction, and ultimately support the formation of functionally complementary founding teams. I conduct an initial test of the model using field data from cofounder meetup events designed to bring together aspiring entrepreneurs seeking a prospective cofounder. In addition, I supplement the field study using a round-robin speed-dating design with a sample of venture teams formed through a university startup launch course. This dissertation contributes to our understanding of new venture team formation, resource acquisition, heterophilous tie formation, and offers practical guidance for entrepreneurs on how to navigate the founding team formation process.

Gray, S. M., Knight, A.P., & Baer, M. Whose idea is it anyway? How lead entrepreneurs promote collective ownership in provisional founding teams. Academy of Management Journal (under 2nd round review)

How do lead entrepreneurs (individuals who have an idea for a venture) encourage other venture team members to feel a sense of collective ownership, that this is “our” venture idea? We propose that lead entrepreneurs can cultivate feelings of collective ownership by engaging in two seemingly contradictory behaviors: territorial marking (communicating ownership over certain parts of the idea) and help-seeking (communicating which parts of the idea that are open to change). We quantitatively tested our model using a sample of 79 pre-founding teams participating in entrepreneurship competitions. We then qualitatively elaborated upon our model with a sample of 27 teams enrolled in a university startup launch course. Our study shows the surprising benefits of territorial marking when coupled with help-seeking behavior. The manuscript is currently under review at the Academy of Management Journal.

Gray, S. M., Bunderson, J. S., Boumgarden, P., & Bechara, J. P. Engineering interaction: Structural change, locus of identification, and the formation and maintenance of cross-unit ties. (under review)

Despite their potential value, cross-unit ties are rare in many organizations. We develop a model explaining how managers can deliberately cultivate cross-unit ties through restructuring. We found that organizations can elicit cross-unit ties by: 1) establishing formal links that transcend unit boundaries and, 2) transferring individuals from one unit to another. However, these structural changes only promote cross-unit ties for individuals who identify with the broader organization rather than local subordinate units. The manuscript is currently under review.

Other Work

Gray, S. M. Formal structure schema: How formal structure shapes perception of the informal network. (manuscript preparation stage)

Gray, S. M., Eisenkraft, N., Ding, W, & Elfenbein, H. A. Shared or distributed network cognition? Examining the benefits of overlapping versus distributed network knowledge in work teams. (data analysis stage)

Eisenkraft, N., Gray, S. M., Ding, W, & Elfenbein, H. A. All in the head? Examining the differential returns of actual versus perceived access to structural holes. (data analysis stage)

Boumgarden, P., & Gray, S. M. Exploring the development of new venture-investor networks over time. (data preparation stage)

Bunderson, J. S. & Gray, S. M. Comparing different paths to tie multiplexity. (research design stage)