University of Oulu

Seppänen P., Liukkunen K., Oivo M. (2017) Little Big Team: Acquiring Human Capital in Software Startups. In: Felderer M., Méndez Fernández D., Turhan B., Kalinowski M., Sarro F., Winkler D. (eds) Product-Focused Software Process Improvement. PROFES 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10611. Springer, Cham. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-69926-4_20

Little big team : acquiring human capital in software startups

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Author: Seppänen, Pertti1; Liukkunen, Kari1; Oivo, Markku1
Organizations: 1M3S/M Group, University of Oulu, FI 90015 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-10-28


Background: Resource-based-view and human capital theories have been used for decades when studying firms, their strategies, organizations, businesses, and successes. The value of the theories as general frameworks has commonly been recognized, especially because of their flexibility in adopting new perspectives, such as the dynamic character of the resources and human capital. Startup companies represent an interesting area on a map of firms because of their specific characteristics and tendency not to strictly follow the processes common in more established companies. Despite the differences, it is reasonable to assume that startups face similar phenomena as established companies do when building up their firms and operations.

Aim: In this research, we studied software startups from the perspective of resource-based-view and human capital theories. We examined what human capital resources, capabilities, knowledge, and skills, were needed in the early stages of software startups and how the startups acquired such human capital.

Method: We conducted a multiple-case study on a group of software startups in Norway and Finland.

Results: We identified six high-level capability areas, nine means to acquire those capabilities, and nine drivers affecting the utilization of different means. We concluded that the capabilities in software startups are dynamic, evolving by growth and learning from the basis of the founders’ prior capabilities, and the utilization of different acquiring means is a case-dependent thing with a varying set of drivers. We also found the uniqueness of the resources, as proposed by the resource-based-view theory, was not reached in our case startups, but replaced with a combination of commonly-available resources, innovation, and application-specific capabilities.

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Series: Lecture notes in computer science
ISSN: 0302-9743
ISSN-E: 1611-3349
ISSN-L: 0302-9743
ISBN: 978-3-319-69926-4
ISBN Print: 978-3-319-69925-7
Pages: 280 - 296
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-69926-4_20
Host publication: Product-Focused Software Process Improvement. PROFES 2017
Host publication editor: Felderer, Michael
Méndez Fernández, Daniel
Turhan, Burak
Kalinowski, Marcos
Sarro, Federica
Winkler, Dietmar
Conference: International Conference on Product-Focused Software Process Improvement
Type of Publication: A4 Article in conference proceedings
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: This study was partly funded by TEKES as part of the HILLA program. We thank the members of the Software Startups Global Research Network Anh Nguyen Duc, Pekka Abrahamsson, and Nirnaya Tripathi for their valuable help, as well as all the interviewees for their friendly contributions to the research data gathering.
Copyright information: © Springer International Publishing AG 2017. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Product-Focused Software Process Improvement. PROFES 2017. The final authenticated version is available online at: