Department of Management

Who is an Expat-Preneur? Toward a Better Understanding of a Key Talent Sector Supporting International Entrepreneurship

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  • Jan Selmer
  • Yvonne McNulty, Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore
  • Jakob Lauring
  • Charles Vance, Loyola Marymount University, United States

The conceptualization of immigrant entrepreneurs has recently expanded to consider some of them as a sub-type of self-initiated expatriates that move across national borders to engage in entrepreneurial activities and opportunities. Known as “expat-preneurs,” and in spite of their growing numbers, this segment of the immigrant entrepreneur population has received far less attention than other types of immigrants in the international and diaspora entrepreneurship literature, and even less attention in the self-initiated expatriate field of study. In this article, we seek to address the gap in empirical studies about expat-preneurs as an important, albeit under-researched, segment of the immigrant entrepreneur and self-initiated expatriate diaspora. While we acknowledge that there may be controversy as to how our entrepreneurship lens is accepted in the international entrepreneurship domain, we see particular value in engaging with the ongoing and emerging discussion within JIEN about what international entrepreneurship can be. To advance the study of expat-preneurs from a theoretical standpoint, we demonstrate empirically that aggregating various kinds of self-initiated expatriates without first ensuring that they are demographically comparable (i.e., that there can be different types) can potentially contribute to poor construct clarity and validity about this field of research in general. More importantly, it can diminish the important role of expat-preneurs in particular within the international entrepreneurship domain, for example, by ignoring that their motivation to engage in entrepreneurial activity differs from the majority of necessity-based diaspora entrepreneurs. To illustrate our point, we surveyed self-initiated expatriates in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore and compared personal characteristics. We found differences regarding their age, position, time in current job in the host location, time as an expatriate, and time in the host location overall to suggest that not all self-initiated expatriates are the same. While we found no intergroup differences for educational level, gender, or marital status, clear distinctions emerged showing that expat-preneurs are different from company-employed self-initiated expatriates. We discuss theoretical implications arising from these findings.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Entrepreneurship
Volume16
Issue2
Pages (from-to)134-149
Number of pages16
ISSN1570-7385
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • ASSIGNMENTS, Business expatriates, CHALLENGES, Construct clarity expatriates, Expat-preneur, IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEURS, INVOLVEMENT, International entrepreneurship, MOTIVATION, MULTINATIONAL-CORPORATIONS, ORGANIZATIONS, SELF-INITIATED EXPATRIATE, SKILLED MIGRANTS, Self-initiated expatriate, WORK EXPERIENCES

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