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Call for Papers: Fantastic Ventures and Where to Find Them: Gazelles, Unicorns, and other Evolutionary Entrepreneurial Species

  • 1.  Call for Papers: Fantastic Ventures and Where to Find Them: Gazelles, Unicorns, and other Evolutionary Entrepreneurial Species

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    Call for Papers: Fantastic Ventures and Where to Find Them: Gazelles, Unicorns, and other Evolutionary Entrepreneurial Species
    Outlet: Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development


    Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Tesla and other extraordinary companies – at least in terms of business' results – are dominating our economies and have definitively changed our social and professional habits. These ventures achieved lightning-fast growth combined with extraordinary market value, leading them to be considered as exceptional entrepreneurial 'species'. Indeed, often they are described metaphorically as gazelles, unicorns, narwhals, dedacorns, hectocorns, and more (Parker et al., 2010; Colombelli et al., 2014; Demir et al., 2017). Still other entrepreneurial cases are called zebras (e.g., Patagonia, Etsy), camels (e.g., Grubhub, Zooma) and donkeys (e.g., HelloFresh, ZocDoc) according to their performance and characteristics (e.g., Lazarow, 2020a; 2020b).

    Due to their notable business results, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers desire to know "where to find" these 'fantastic' ventures and "how to influence their formation" (e.g., Sims and O'Regan, 2006; Acs et al., 2011; Coad and Srhoj, 2020; Croce et al., 2021; Coad and Karlsson, 2022; Eklund and van Criekingen, 2022). Indeed, entrepreneurial ventures that evolve in radically powerful ways have effects on employment, innovation rates, and the urban politics in the environments where they are embedded (Henrekson and Johansson, 2010; Bos and Stam, 2014; McNeill, 2016; Senderovitz et al., 2016; Anton, 2019;  Murphy et al., 2021). Therefore, research on the essence of these entrepreneurial 'species' and the underpinnings of their evolution is warranted.
    According to the current literature, the extraordinary impact of these radically unique entrepreneurial ventures is due to: (1) breakouts from traditional life cycle phases and (2) progressive approaches to valuation that do not apply to more traditional businesses (De Massis et al., 2016; DeSantola and Gulati, 2017; Bock and Hackober, 2020; Cowden et al., 2020; Kurtatko et al., 2020; Abatecola et al., 2021). However, current research on these evolved entrepreneurial species is nascent and usually lumped into venture capital conversations (e.g., Kenney and Zysman, 2019) or media articles (Gupta, 2015; Mara and Aniyia, 2016; Rice, 2021). 

    This Special Issue of the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development advances the understanding of these 'fantastic' entrepreneurial species. The objective is to clarify whether gazelles, unicorns, zebras, and so on constitute a new paradigm in entrepreneurial thought, or if they are merely a distraction (Aldrich and Ruef, 2018; 2020). In fact, it is worth noting that some scholars think that allocating effort towards the understanding of these kinds of extraordinary ventures would merely mean solving problems for less than 1% of start-ups. This SI promises to determine whether extraordinary entrepreneurial dynamics belong only to this tiny portion or, by contrast, are relevant to a larger population of entrepreneurial ventures worldwide. 

    We call for submissions that investigate, through qualitative and/or quantitative methodologies and approaches (e.g., evolution, co-evolution, etc.; Paniccia and Leoni, 2019; Abatecola et al., 2020), new entrepreneurial evolutions. We intend for this Special Issue to make a significant impact on the field of entrepreneurship, offer many new implications for entrepreneurs, scholars, and policymakers who have interests in identifying and shepherding these highly novel and evolutionary venture forms.

    We offer an online pre-submission Paper Development Workshop on the 11th of November 2022. Please send your expression of interest to this PDW and to the Special Issue to matteo.cristofaro@uniroma2.it.

    List of topic areas

    • Unicorns

    • Gazelles

    • High growth start-ups

    Submission information

    Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jsbed.

    Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/jsbed#author-guidelines

    Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to "Please select the issue you are submitting to". 

    Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

    Key deadlines

    Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 14/11/2022

    Closing date for manuscripts submission: 14/02/2023    

    Guest Editors

    Matteo Cristofaro, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy, matteo.cristofaro@uniroma2.it

    Johan Kask, Örebro University School of Business, Sweden, johan.kask@oru.se
    Jeffrey Muldoon, Emporia State University, U.S., jmuldoon@emporia.edu


    Abatecola, G., Breslin, D., & Kask, J. (2020), "Do organizations really co-evolve? Problematizing co-evolutionary change in management and organization studies", Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol. 155, 119964.

    Abatecola, G., Cristofaro, M., Giannetti, F., & Kask, J. (2021), "How can biases affect entrepreneurial decision making? toward a behavioral approach to unicorns", International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, DOI:  10.1007/s11365-021-00772-4.

    Acs, Z. J., Parsons, W., Tray, W. (2011), "High-impact firms: gazelles revisited. In Handbook of research on entrepreneurship and regional development", in Fritsch, M. (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 1-89. 

    Aldrich, H. E., & Ruef, M. (2018), "Unicorns, gazelles, and other distractions on the way to understanding real entrepreneurship in the United States", Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 458-472.

    Aldrich, H. E., & Ruef, M. (2020), "Scholars Should Study Everyday Entrepreneurs, Not Gazelles", Entrepreneur & Innovation Exchange, retrieved from: https://eiexchange.com/content/Scholars-should-study-everyday-entrepren…, accessed on March 7th, 2022.

    Anton, S.G. (2019), "Leverage and firm growth: An empirical investigation of gazelles from emerging Europe", International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 209-232.

    Bock, C., & Hackober, C. (2020), "Unicorns-what drives multibillion-dollar valuations?", Business Research, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 949-984.

    Bos, J. W., & Stam, E. (2014), "Gazelles and industry growth: a study of young high-growth firms in The Netherlands", Industrial and Corporate Change, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 145-169.

    Coad, A., & Karlsson, J. (2022), "A field guide for gazelle hunters: Small, old firms are unlikely to become high-growth firms", Journal of Business Venturing Insights, Vol. 17, e00286.

    Coad, A. and Srhoj, S. (2020), "Catching Gazelles with a Lasso: Big data techniques for the prediction of high-growth firms", Small Business Economics, Vol. 55, pp. 541-565.

    Colombelli, A., Krafft, J., & Quatraro, F. (2014), "High-growth firms and technological knowledge: do gazelles follow exploration or exploitation strategies?", Industrial and Corporate Change, Vol 23, No. 1, pp. 261-291.

    Cowden, B.J., Bendickson, J.S., Bungcayao, J. and Womack, S. (2020), "Unicorns and agency theory: Agreeable moral hazard?", Journal of Small Business Strategy, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 17-25.

    Croce, A., Ughetto, E., Bonini, S., & Capizzi, V. (2021), "Gazelles, ponies, and the impact of business angels' characteristics on firm growth", Journal of Small Business Management, Vol. 59, No. 2, pp. 223-248.

    De Massis, A., Frattini, F., & Quillico, F. (2016), "What big companies can learn from the success of the unicorns", Harvard Business Review, retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2016/03/what-big-companies-can-learn-from-the-success-o…, accessed on March 7th, 2022.

    Demir, R., Wennberg, K., and McKelvie, A. (2017), "The strategic management of high-growth firms: A review and theoretical conceptualization", Long Range Planning, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp. 431-456.

    DeSantola, A., and Gulati, R. (2017), "Scaling: Organizing and growth in entrepreneurial ventures", Academy of Management Annals, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 640-668.

    Eklund, C., & van Criekingen, K. (2022), "Fast as a gazelle–young firms gaining from educational diversity", Industry and Innovation, DOI: 10.1080/13662716.2022.2044764.

    Gupta, A. (2015), "Unicorns vs. Donkeys: Your Handy Guide to Distinguishing Who's Who", available at: https://medium.com/@abhasvc/unicorns-vs-donkeys-your-handy-guide-to-dis…, accessed on March 14th, 2022.

    Henrekson, M., & Johansson, D. (2010), "Gazelles as job creators: a survey and interpretation of the evidence", Small Business Economics, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 227-244.

    Kenney, M., & Zysman, J. (2019), "Unicorns, Cheshire cats, and the new dilemmas of entrepreneurial finance", Venture Capital, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 35-50.

    Kuratko, D.F., Holt, H.L. and Neubert, E. (2020), "Blitzscaling: the good, the bad, and the ugly", Business Horizons, Vol. 63 No. 1, pp. 109-119.

    Lazarow, A. (2020a), "Beyond silicon valley", Harvard Business Review, March-April, 126-133.

    Lazarow, A. (2020b), Out-Innovate, Harvard:  Harvard Business Review Press.

    Lehmann, E. E., Schenkenhofer, J., & Wirsching, K. (2019), "Hidden champions and unicorns: A question of the context of human capital investment", Small Business Economics, Vol. 52, No. 2, pp. 359-374.

    Litan, R. E., & Hathaway, I. (2017), "Is America encouraging the wrong kind of entrepreneurship?", Harvard Business Review, Economics Digital Article, retrieved from: https://hbr. org/2017/06/is-america-encouraging-the-wrong-kind-of- entrepreneurship, accessed on March 7th, 2022.

    Mara, J. and Aniyia, A. (2016), "Zebras Fix What Unicorns Break", available at: https://medium.com/zebras-unite/zebrasfix-c467e55f9d96, accessed on March 14th, 2022.

    Murphy, P. J., Kornetskyy, A., & Nixon, J. (2021). Delineating novel aspects of social enterprise theory. Social Enterprise Journal, ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-04-2021-0036

    McNeill, D. (2016), "Governing a city of unicorns: technology capital and the urban politics of San Francisco", Urban Geography, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 494-513.

    Paniccia, P. M. A., & Leoni, L. (2019), "Co-evolution in tourism: The case of Albergo Diffuso", Current Issues in Tourism, Vol. 22, No. 10, pp. 1216-1243.

    Parker, S.C., Storey, D.J., and Van Witteloostuijn, A. (2010), "What happens to gazelles? The importance of dynamic management strategy", Small Business Economics, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 203-226.

    Rice, M. (2021), "Zebras, Camels, Gazelles, Oh My! What Animal Is Your Startup?", available at: https://builtin.com/growth-hacking/startup-animals-zebras-camels-gazell…, accessed on March 14th, 2022.

    Senderovitz, M., Klyver, K., & Steffens, P. (2016), "Four years on: Are the gazelles still running? A longitudinal study of firm performance after a period of rapid growth", International Small Business Journal, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 391-411

    Sims, M.A. and O'Regan, N. (2006), "In search of gazelles using a research DNA model", Technovation, Vol. 26 No. 8, pp. 943-954.

    Matteo Cristofaro
    University of Rome