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Are You Experienced or Are You Talented?: When Does Innate Talent versus Experience Explain Entrepreneurial Performance?


Correspondence to: Charles E. Eesley, Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University, 475 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305, U.S.A. E-mail:


We explore whether entrepreneurial performance is due to innate talent or the accumulation of entrepreneurial experience. Using a novel data set with multiple observations of founding attempts per individual, we generate a unique measure of entrepreneurial talent. In contrast to prior findings, the relative importance of experience versus talent changes with the context. When the current market or technology is familiar, experience dominates. However, when the venture context is unfamiliar, talent is more important. Individuals with experience and talent handle both familiar and unfamiliar aspects and may extract more from a given level of experience. The findings advance our understanding of how the drivers of venture performance shift with the broader technological and industry environment and places limits on when experience aids performance. Copyright © 2012 Strategic Management Society.