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: Functional Knowledge Homophily in New Venture Teams, under review

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, I introduce an asymmetry in the partner preferences of entrepreneurs, who are attempting to assemble a venture team, and potential joiners, who are deciding whether or not to work with an entrepreneur. Using survey, audio, and archival data from a unique university incubator program and a cofounder networking event, I found that entrepreneurs initially solicit potential joiners who possess dissimilar functional knowledge. However, potential joiners are more likely to reject an invitation that comes from a functionally dissimilar entrepreneur, unless the potential joiner is aware of a shared social identity with a functionally dissimilar entrepreneur. In response to failure in enlisting a functionally dissimilar potential joiner, entrepreneurs are more likely to solicit functionally similar potential joiners. Ultimately, entrepreneurs who assemble a venture team that is functionally homogenous are rated less favorably by investors and raise less funding.

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. (In Press ) Engineering interaction: Structural change, locus of identification, and the formation and maintenance of cross-unit ties. Personnel  Psychology

Cross-unit ties – relationships that facilitate discretionary information sharing between
individuals from different business units – offer a range of potential organizational benefits. Scholars argue that organizations can promote: a) the formation of new cross-unit ties by bringing together individuals from different business units into structural links (e.g., cross-unit strategic committees) and, b) the maintenance of existing cross-unit ties by transferring an individual to another unit. We develop a contingency model which proposes that whether or not formal interventions will foster cross-unit ties depends upon the pattern with which individuals identify with their local unit and the broader organization. We test our model using a sample of senior leaders of a Fortune 200 agribusiness company before and after a significant restructuring initiative designed to stimulate cross-unit information sharing. We found that structural links were more likely to produce new cross-unit ties for individuals who identify strongly with either
the organization or their local unit compared to individuals who identify strongly with both. Conversely, lateral transfers were more likely to maintain cross-unit ties when the lateral transfer identifies strongly with both the organization and their former unit compared to lateral transfers who only identify strongly with one or the other. Our model and results highlight how the optimal pattern of identification for cross-unit tie formation within structural links differs from the optimal pattern of identification for cross-unit tie maintenance by lateral transfers.

Other Work

Boumgarden, P.*, Gray, S. M.*, & Ranganathan, R. Rising tide or sinking ships: The effects of status heterogeneity in new venture networks.

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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