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Keywords:

  • new business entry;
  • licensing;
  • experiential learning;
  • overconfidence;
  • causal ambiguity

Abstract

We study how firms' use of in-licensing for their initial entry to a business domain can detract from the performance of their subsequent autonomous endeavors in the domain. We argue that in-licensing produces high levels of causal ambiguity about factors that drive the performance achieved with the licensed product. In turn, the experience that firms gather through pre-entry licensing is likely to generate superstitious learning and overconfidence that undermine the performance of licensees' subsequent independent operations. The biases will be particularly strong in the face of contextual dissimilarity. We find consistent evidence in a study of firms that entered the global aircraft industry between 1944 and 2000. The research helps advance the understanding of the benefits and costs of markets for technology. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.