Athena's Birth: Triggers, Actors, and Actions Preceding Industry Inception

Rajshree Agarwal, Mahka Moeen, Sonali K. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research summary: Industry evolution scholars define industry inception as the first instance of product commercialization, focusing on subsequent time periods of growth and maturity. Left understudied are the triggers, actors, and actions preceding industry inception. We integrate recent research in a preliminary framework, conceptualizing the incubation stage as activated by a “trigger” event—a scientific discovery, unmet user need, or mission-oriented grand challenges—and continuing through the first instances of product commercialization. We focus on illuminating actions of multiple and heterogeneous actors that help reduce high technological and demand uncertainty, thereby shaping industry structure and strategic action post-commercialization. To point, although the actors may be different, their actions follow a similar theme. We hope this framework spurs future research investigating the understudied incubation stage of new industries. Managerial summary: Numerous visionaries––inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists, users, managers, policy makers, and others––spend decades laying the groundwork that leads to the creation of new industries. Their contributions are critical, yet have received little systematic attention. Here, we illuminate their actions during the understudied “incubation” stage sparked by a trigger event and culminating in the first instance of product commercialization. We begin by documenting three triggers: scientific and technological discoveries, unmet user needs, and mission-oriented grand challenges. We show that following a trigger event, visionaries solve the technological problems required to transform an innovative idea into a viable commercial product and engage potential adopters and stakeholders; they do this by both applying their existing knowledge base and engaging in experimentation. Their efforts set the stage for subsequent commercialization efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-305
Number of pages19
JournalStrategic Entrepreneurship Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • entrepreneurship
  • industry evolution
  • innovation
  • knowledge
  • nascent industries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management


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