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PhD defence by Jan Schlünssen

A conceptualization of effectuation through an analysis of the entrepreneurial process ‐ from being a student to becoming a founder, CEO and a multimillionaire. Jan Schlünssen - Department of Development and Planning


10.11.2014 kl. 13.00 - 17.00


Assessment Committee

  • Head of Department, BA.Cand.Merc.,Ph.D. Ricky Wilke, Copenhagen Business School
  • Dr. Ludger Deitmer, University of Bremen
  • Associate Professor, Pernille Bertelsen, Aalborg University (Chairman)

In recent decades, a lot of effort has been invested into creating opportunities for students to become entrepreneurs. Many of the initiatives have been based on a business plan approach, which has been showcased in business plan competitions. However, it remains unclear whether this is the right vehicle for creating viable ventures. In other words, how do students become successful entrepreneurs?

This research examines the path to entrepreneurship followed by a group of students who set up a high‐tech start‐up. The study has uncovered several important factors which, combined, contribute to a success of a venture. Firstly, many successful companies are created through a process involving more than just one founder. Often, the founders work in a close cooperation with a founding team, who are as important. Secondly, in knowledge based start‐ups, technology plays a role of an actant: it is not only the foundation of the start‐up but also, both for the founders and the founding team, it is the motivation for getting involved. Thirdly, understanding how companies start and survive involves the theory of effectuation as described by Sarasvathy (Sarasvathy 2008).

The study concludes that even though the students took part in a business plan competition, which represents a causal approach to the process of founding the company and the stages immediately after it, the strategy they actually followed was that of effectuation, which proves the theory put forward by Sarasvathy.

The results of the case study at the core of this research were implemented in designing a Sommerhøjskole program, which is a course involving both students and companies. It is shown that as described by Henriksen (Henriksen et al 2004), a problem‐ and project‐based setting can be created, where both students and companies work together on solving a real problem, thus creating valuable innovation.

The last step of this research involves a comparison between the findings from the case and the principles of PBL at Aalborg University. When evaluating the principles, it is demonstrated that PBL has a potential for accommodating innovation, although reaching the curricula goals through projects based on real problems may prove challenging. Therefore, a new model for accommodating not only innovation but also entrepreneurship in educational settings is put forward.

After the defence the department will host a reception at the Guest Canteen A. C. Meyers Vej 15
room 1.001.


No fee


Aalborg Centre for Problem Based Learning in Engineering Science and Sustainability


A.C. Meyers Vænge 15, 2450 København SV in room C1/2.1.043

Registration Deadline

05.11.2014 kl. 09.00

Register at