Chien-Chi Tseng is no stranger to new ventures. Dr. Tseng left behind a lucrative career managing and developing incubation centers across Taiwan university campuses. An incubator, in business-speak, is an organization that assists start-up companies by providing services such as management training and office space. Dr. Tseng has supported and mentored over 100 new business ventures across various university campuses in Taiwan.
After years of working in this field, Dr. Tseng felt compelled to translate his insights from 16 years’ worth of experience in helping new business ventures into research findings. Unfortunately, Dr. Tseng was repeatedly rejected for admission to the National Taiwan University, Taiwan’s most prestigious school, despite having worked at the university for several years. He was deemed “too old” and with too little potential for academic success to become a doctoral student, and there was concern that his insufficient English capability would be a barrier to effective teaching. These setbacks, in conjunction with his wife’s medical crises, spurred Dr. Tseng to decline a government research position in order to pursue new professional opportunities and to provide a better life for his family. Thus, he applied and was granted admission to the doctoral program in human resource development at the University of Minnesota.
I understand the meaning of new venture failure and success because my life was also full of failures and challenges. Those failures and challenges encouraged me to find a place where I can fulfill my goal, live better, and make a maximum contribution to society.
Reflecting on his doctoral experience, Dr. Tseng mused that, as a middle-aged new immigrant from Taiwan, his unique background set him apart from his fellow doctoral students. Then-candidate Dr. Tseng enriched the learning environment by contributing his unique insights and experiences. Unfortunately, while his cohort appreciated his diverse background and insights, Dr. Tseng’s PhD pursuit wasn’t a smooth journey. Once again, his English skills were presented as a barrier during of his doctoral study, when his adviser bluntly informed Dr. Tseng that his English skills were not up to par in order to become a professor in the U.S. Dr. Tseng did not pass his first PhD oral exam. By the end of his study, Dr. Tseng’s adviser had three words for him: “Who are you?”
Dr. Tseng’s adviser questioned Dr. Tseng’s likelihood of becoming a professor in the U.S. during the economic downturn of 2008. But once again, Dr. Tseng used these setbacks to further fuel his pursuit to become a professor. Dr. Tseng hired an English tutor, published papers, attended conferences, and worked on improving his English speaking skills for a year before defending his thesis. In 2010, Dr. Tseng passed his defense and obtained his PhD degree. He then entered the Post-Doctoral Bridge Program at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business, which prepares people with a non-business PhD degree to teach in business schools.
I am grateful to my adviser for giving me a chance to reflect who I was, to plan where I went, and to improve what I lacked.
Dr. Tseng has applied these difficult life lessons into his research on new venture success. According to Dr. Tseng’s Framework for New Venture Success, an organization that honors the diversity and experience of its individuals creates a climate of creativity and innovation, one of the core components of a successful business venture. In addition, Dr. Tseng proposes that having a wealth of experience should be presented as a resource, not a barrier, to new venture success: “prior start-up experience enhances the economic performance of new ventures”. Finally, Dr. Tseng stresses the importance of incorporating organizational learning practices such as holding learning groups in which “people energize and inspire each other, and the diversity of ideas and openness to them provide the basis for new creative ideas and approaches.”
Dr. Tseng is currently an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Morgan State University. For more information on Dr. Tseng’s research, visit his NCID profile page. The Effects of Creativity and Innovation, Entrepreneurial Leadership, and Organizational Learning on New Venture Success.