Date of Award

Winter 12-2017

Embargo Period


Degree Type

Dissertation (CMU Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering and Public Policy


Alex Davis

Second Advisor

Rui Baptista


Entrepreneurship is the force that drives economic, social and technical progress. A small percentage of firms (5%) is responsible for a disproportionately large amount of net job creation (>50%). Named high growth firms, these successful enterprises have been in the spotlight of research looking into the key drivers of firm growth and growth policy. This dissertation explores high growth from multiple perspectives: at the level of the firm, by understanding how the definition of a high growth firm impacts its characteristics and expected performance over time; at the local level, by isolating the effect of political connections of firm performance and firm entry; and at the macro level, by observing the evolution of entrepreneurship during transition. The first study finds that most HGFs are unable to maintain high growth rates for long, but do register lower volatility in growth rates and a higher chance of survival. Results on growth volatility and persistence vary significantly with the specific definition of “high growth” used as well as with the specific variable used to measure growth (e.g., revenue, employees, profit, productivity). These findings have direct implications for growth policies and programs that depend on identifying HGFs. The second study indicates a strong significant effect of political alignment on revenue growth and firm entry. Larger firms take advantage of political connections for performance gains, while small firms are negatively impacted. Furthermore, alignment reduces entry into entrepreneurship by 8-11%. These findings establish political alignment and local-level business-politics collusion as important dynamics to consider when evaluating entrepreneurship policy in developing countries. The third study describes the interdependence between entrepreneurship, institutions, and transitions. The case of Romania shows that the beginning of transition was characterized by an initial explosion of newly created private enterprises, followed by a declining trend in enterprise creation and, recently, by a new increase in entrepreneurship activity. To conclude, this work contributes new perspectives towards a better understanding of high growth firms and growth policy. Policy implications are targeted towards transition and developing economies that have seen little representation in literature. The goal is to enable successful high growth policies across multiple levels.

Available for download on Tuesday, July 10, 2018