Get access

The Accidental Internationalists: A Theory of Born Globals


  • Jean-François Hennart

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Jean-François Hennart is Professor of International Management at the Faculty of Economics, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy; Professor of Strategy and International Business at Queen's University Management School; Visiting Professor of Strategy and Organization at Singapore Management University; and Extramural Fellow at Tilburg University Center for Research in Economics and Business. His address is Heuvelstraat 14, 5131AP Alphen, The Netherlands.

  • Previous versions of this paper were presented at the conference on High Potential Concepts, Phenomena, and Theories in International Entrepreneurship at the University of Glasgow in June 2012 and at the 15th McGill Entrepreneurship Conference at the University of Pavia in September 2012. I thank the editors, Marion Jones, Patricia McDougall, and Manuel Serapio; the two anonymous referees; as well as Terence Fan, Stephanie Fernhaber, Birgit Hagen, Tage Koed Madsen, Antonio Majocchi, Ernest Verwaal, Ivo Zander, and Antonella Zucchella for their stimulating comments. Financial support from the Cariplo Foundation International Recruitment Call “The Internationalization of Italian Firms: the Role of Intangibles, Managerial Resources, and Corporate Governance” is gratefully acknowledged.

Please send correspondence to: Jean-François Hennart, tel.: 31-13-508-1831; e-mail:


The distinguishing characteristic of international new ventures/born globals (INVs/BGs) is that they have foreign sales from the outset, or very quickly afterward. I argue that this is due to their business model. INVs/BGs sell to spatially dispersed customers distinctive niche products that incur low communication, transportation, and adaptation costs. In contrast to the firms described by the Uppsala model, selling to foreign customers does not require additional time or effort for INVs/BGs. Thus INVs/BGs can be seen as accidental internationalists.

Get access to the full text of this article