A configurational analysis of network and knowledge variables explaining born globals’ and late internationalizing SMEs’ international performance

Network-based and knowledge-based conditions are widely regarded as important antecedents to international performance among new venture Born Globals (BGs) and their counterpart late internationalizing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Yet, while studies have examined the single effects of these ingredients on BGs’ and late internationalizing SMEs’ international activity, a configurational approach is still missing. How do network-based and knowledge-based factors matter for international performance and do they share the same importance for both types of firms? To address these questions, we apply for the first time a fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) on data from managers and founders of 365 international German, Austrian, Swiss, and Liechtensteinian companies, mapping configurational paths that lead to high international performance. The results demonstrate that late internationalizers do not share the same paths as BGs for high international performance, except in one instance. We find four causal configurations for BGs and three for late internationalizing SMEs. Results show that while both groups of firms rely on network size, BGs rely much more on collaboration intensity as well as international market knowledge and education.