The Founder Legitimation Process Among Refugee Entrepreneurs

Kurian George*, Todd Moss, Maria Minniti, Trenton Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


The founder legitimacy literature argues that would-be entrepreneurs establish their legitimacy by framing their stories and actions differently for different resource-providing audiences. Yet, different individuals frame differently, with some being more flexible and able to appeal to more diverse audience preferences and judgments than others. We explore these differences in flexibility and why they arise by investigating the under-studied founder legitimation process. Using a qualitative inductive approach, we investigate how early interactions of refugee entrepreneurs with host audiences, as well as their experiences prior to resettlement, influence how flexibly they frame. We find that refugees who have been exposed to more diverse environments prior to resettlement set broad targets for legitimacy, engage with more diverse audiences, and experiment with more types of legitimation symbols than other refugees. Refugees in the first group, called “Explorers,” tend to frame more flexibly than refugees in the second group, called “Traditionalists.” Finally, we find that flexibility of framing tactics have important business and personal implications, with Explorers having access to more diverse resources and dealing better with feelings of dissonance than Traditionalists.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcademy of Management Proceedings
PublisherAcademy of Management
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


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