International expansion of Canadian high technology start-up companies : an integrated theoretical model : an exploratory case study of Canadian HSF internationalization process
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- Master Thesis 
Purpose – This qualitative, case-based research investigates the internationalization and growth process of Canadian high-tech start-ups (HSFs). This research observes tensions between literature and entrepreneurial tendencies, explores relevant factors to the internationalization process such as the entrepreneur’s characteristics, and proposes an integrated theoretical model. This analysis will serve to identify practical implications and a future research agenda. Design & Approach – Three research questions are posed to support the outlined objective. An exploratory case study approach was chosen to observe the growth process of eight Canadian HSFs of varying size and stage. Data was collected through in-depth interviews with founders, which was then used to establish a case narrative in the context of the proposed research questions and preform cross-case analysis. Findings – The Lean Start-up model best represents the Canadian HSF internationalization process. The process differs to traditional MNEs, as key decisions such as entry mode are less relevant to HSFs. Instead, the process is dictated by the founder’s ability to build their network and identify business opportunities through informal relationships and utilize existing international knowledge and experience. Research Limitations – This thesis is limited to the Canadian HSF industry. Certain conclusions may be applicable to other SMOPECs; however, they may not be generalizable to HSFs in alternate markets or industries. This research would benefit from the combination of both quantitative and qualitative research methods, and the application of longitudinal analysis. Practical Implications – While several practical implications are identified throughout this paper, three stand out in particular: 1) Founders primarily enter the U.S. as their initial market and use Canada as their demo market to acquire knowledge. 2) Entrepreneurial competencies dictate the firm’s internationalization process; firms that lack knowledge of international markets should seek advisors with foreign knowledge early in the process to identify opportunities. 3) Founders primarily use informal 3 networks to facilitate growth; connections through incubators and informal advisors enable knowledge acquisition. Originality – There is no recent research observing Canadian HSF internationalization utilizing a case study approach. Previous research on this topic does not establish an integrated theoretical framework or observe emerging research trends in detail such as informal networks or entrepreneurial characteristics. Contribution & Future Research – An integrated theoretical model is proposed along with a comprehensive outline of the HSF internationalization process. Research questions are established with reference to relevant research agendas, exploring topics such as the knowledge acquisition process and the role of the entrepreneur in international growth. A research agenda outlines potential finance applications of the internationalisation process, particularly the use of real options.