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? To answer this question I employ a variety of methods including archival data, field research, qualitative methods, and experimental designs.

Dissertation: Functional Knowledge Homophily in New Venture Teams

Despite the potential benefits of establishing a new venture team with diverse functional knowledge, many new venture teams are homogenous with respect to functional background. Drawing upon theories of interpersonal attraction and recent work on the distinction between entrepreneurs and potential team members, I introduce an asymmetry in the preferences of entrepreneurs, who are assembling a venture team, and those who are deciding whether or not to become a team member. Survey, audio, and archival data from a university incubator program indicate that entrepreneurs initially target some potential team members with dissimilar functional knowledge and other potential team members with overlapping functional knowledge. However, potential team members are more likely to reject invitations that come from functionally dissimilar entrepreneurs. In response to failure in enlisting a functionally dissimilar team member, entrepreneurs subsequently target those with similar functional knowledge. Results from a quasi-experimental study at a cofounder networking event show that potential team members’ bias toward functionally dissimilar entrepreneurs can be ameliorated when potential team members become aware of a shared social identity. By examining the team formation process, this paper contributes to our understanding of new venture teams, resource mobilization, and choice homophily.

Gray, S. M., Knight, A.P., & Baer, M. (In Press) On the emergence of collective ownership in new creative teams. Organization Science 

We develop and test a theoretical model that explains how collective psychological ownership—shared feelings of joint possession over something—emerges within new creative teams that were launched to advance one person’s (i.e., an originator’s) preconceived idea. Our model proposes that such teams face a unique challenge—an initial asymmetry in feelings of psychological ownership for the idea between the originator who conceived the idea and new team members who are beginning to work on the idea. We suggest that the originator can resolve this asymmetry and foster the emergence of collective psychological ownership by enacting two interpersonal behaviors—help seeking and territorial marking. These behaviors, we contend, build collective ownership by facilitating team identification and inhibiting team ownership conflict. Our model also proposes that collective ownership positively relates to the early success of new creative teams. The results of a quantitative study of 79 creative teams participating in an entrepreneurship competition provided general support for our predictions, but also suggested refinements as to how an originator’s behavior influences team dynamics. The findings of a subsequent qualitative investigation of 27 teams participating in a university startup launch course shed additional light on how collective ownership emerges in new creative teams launched to advance one person’s idea.

Gray, S. M., Bunderson, J. S., Boumgarden, P., & Bechara, J. P. (2019) Engineering interaction: Structural change, locus of identification, and the formation and maintenance of cross-unit ties. Personnel  Psychology, 72, 599-622.

Cross-unit ties–relationships that facilitate discretionary information sharing between individuals from different business units–offer a range of organizational benefits. Scholars argue that organizations can promote cross-unit ties by: (a) formally bringing together individuals from different business units into structural links (e.g., cross-unit strategic committees) to encourage the formation of new cross unit ties and, (b) transferring individuals across units, which can increase cross-unit interaction when ties to the prior unit are maintained. This study considers the notion that the success of these formal interventions in fostering cross-unit interaction is contingent on identification with the local unit relative to identification with the broader organization. Specifically, we propose that structural links are more likely to foster cross-unit ties when organizational identification is high and unit identification is low. In contrast, lateral transfers are more likely to result in cross-unit ties when both organizational identification and unit identification are high. We find general support for these propositions in data obtained from a sample of senior leaders of a Fortune 200 agribusiness company before and after a restructuring designed to stimulate cross-unit information sharing. Our model and results make important contributions to our understanding of the relationship between formal and informal structure and reconcile conflicting views regarding the moderating effect of unit identification on intergroup relations

Other Work

Gray, S. M., Boumgarden, P., Ranganathan, R., & Huang, L. Sizing up the syndicate: Status heterogeneity as a double-edge sword in attracting new investors.

Gray, S. M., Ding, W., & Ng, W. Leveling the playing field: Examining the female entrepreneur advantage in assembling diverse founding teams.

Gray, S. M.*, Sackett, E*, & Howell, T. Overcoming the familiarity trap in new venture team formation.

Gray, S. M., Bunderson, J. S., & Van der Vegt, G. Unpacking vertical and horizontal member differences in teams: The role of hierarchy stability.



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