Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises


Maria Minniti


Entrepreneurship, Founder Legitimacy, Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Legitimacy, Refugee Entrepreneurship

Subject Categories

Business | Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations


Despite growing recognition of the importance of the founder’s personal legitimacy for successful venturing, various questions remain with respect to what founder legitimacy is and how it is achieved. My review of the legitimacy literature reveals that founder legitimacy can be conceptualized as both a characteristic and a process, and that the entity signaling the founder’s legitimacy can be the founder, an organization, or even an industry or region. My review also shows that the expertise needed for founder legitimacy is taken for granted in most studies. To develop a better understanding of how founders acquire and signal personal legitimacy, I investigate the processes through which the latter is developed by studying immigrant entrepreneurs. Immigrant entrepreneurs suffer from liability of foreignness and provide an excellent sample to investigate what legitimacy is, and how it is perceived and acquired. The findings from my research suggest that potential entrepreneurs interpret institutional expectations regarding founder legitimacy in different ways, and that these interpretations influence how they build legitimacy and how much legitimacy they build. I also find that the costs of building this legitimacy, specifically by complying with regulations, can be high enough for immigrant entrepreneurs, to put them at a relative disadvantage in terms of their business earnings. My research contributes to the legitimacy and entrepreneurship literature. It has also significant and timely implications by showing how, at a time when countries are restricting entry, immigrants can successfully overcome legitimacy challenges associated with venturing and become contributing members of society.


Open Access