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‘External enabler’ (EE) is a collective label for non-trivial changes to the business environment—such as new technologies, regulatory changes, demographic and sociocultural trends, macroeconomic swings, and changes to the natural environment—which are expected to trigger, shape, or enhance some entrepreneurial pursuits.


(Davidsson et al., 2022 OREBM)


The EE concept and framework provide a more workable alternative than “objective, pre-existing opportunity” for capturing favorable external circumstances in entrepreneurship. It also provides knowledge accumulation through common terminology for previously scattered research on entrepreneurship in response to environmental change and helps remedy the relative neglect of environmental factors in recent decades’ entrepreneurship and strategy scholarship (Davidsson, 2015 JBV; 2020 AMD; Davidsson et al.; 2020 AMP; Kimjeon & Davidsson, 2022 ETP)

The External Enabler Framework

The EE framework recognizes other theories and frameworks’ contribution on the white parts of the below figure while focusing on adding the otherwise less developed, shaded parts

EE Framework visualization.png

EE Characteristics

Characteristics refer to the basic nature of an enabler—the salient properties that describe its structure and form. We construe such characteristics of enablers as intrinsic to them; they do not vary across the agents who might benefit from them. However, perceptions of them may vary, as does their potential influence on particular attempts to create ventures (i.e., a given characteristic may be differentially beneficial). As intrinsic properties of external enablers, characteristics are aggregate-level constructs; however, variations in these dimensions are relevant on the level of individual ventures because agents’ alertness, knowledge, luck, and effort in relation to them can be important to particular new ventures’ development and success. We discuss two characteristics—scope and onset—along which external enablers’ actionability and market potential may vary. We identified these characteristics through our own analysis of how—across types of external change—instances of change are similar or different, and how this might matter to emerging new ventures.

(Davidsson et al., 2020 AMP)

EE Mechanisms

The mechanisms of external enablers explicate how they can facilitate the initiation, ongoing development, and success of new business ventures. How mechanisms work often but not always requires premeditated action; occasionally, emerging ventures benefit from enablers and their mechanisms without the entrepreneurial agents’ full awareness. Further, unlike characteristics, mechanism is a relational construct, providing a means to connect external elements and the entrepreneurial agent in the spirit of Shane and Venkataraman’s (2000) original nexus idea. Enablers afford potential for eliciting certain mechanisms and not others, but these action potentials can only be actualized in particular (categories of) ventures. Thus, whether an enabler in fact provides a particular mechanism depends both on the enabler and the venture. Depending on what they are and what they are trying to achieve, some ventures can and some cannot benefit from a mechanisms that an enabler is inherently capable of providing. Conversely, no ventures can derive a particular mechanism from an enabler that does not have the inherent capacity to provide that mechanism . Moreover, mechanisms can produce secondary effects by interacting with other mechanisms. This is important because external enabler is a composite-level aggregate construct in its own right. Further, in accordance with our assumption that enablers are favorable to some but not all new ventures, mechanisms influence the likelihood of an effect but are not necessarily sufficient for it to materialize (Hedström & Ylikoski, 2010).

(Davidsson et al., 2020 AMP)


EE Roles

Our portrayal of characteristics and mechanisms does not specify when in the process external enablers influence particular ventures. Therefore, we introduce the notion of roles to conceptualize external enablers’ higher-order functions at different stages of new venture development. Derived from lower-order mechanisms, roles are also inherently relational and encapsulate both the type and the scope of enablers. We discuss three prominent roles that are particularly illustrative of the gestalts of influence: triggering, shaping, and outcome-enhancing.

(Davidsson et al., 2020 AMP)

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