Problem Outline. The entrepreneur’s life is a path of learning. This learning to a large extent results from critical events. The exit from an entrepreneurial endeavor as a particularly critical event thus represents an opportunity for rich learning. Entrepreneurs who subsequently re-engage in entrepreneurial activity (“serial entrepreneurs”) may therefore achieve improved venture performance. Whereas research already dealt with this learning-caused performance increase of successive business ventures, it still lacks a better understanding of the learning process between exit and re-engagement. Existing studies (1) are limited to certain stages within this process, (2) only deal with single influencing factors (e.g. grief) or (3) discuss certain learning outcomes (e.g. venture management learning). Combatting this fragmentation of research, we aim to draw a comprehensive, dynamic picture of the learning process spanning from exit to entrepreneurial re-emergence.
Aim/Findings. We apply a systematic literature review methodology and provide a conceptual framework of the learning process between exit and entrepreneurial re-emergence. Our findings reveal that the exit indeed triggers a stage of deep reflection that is influenced by attributional and emotional effects and leads to an updated stock of knowledge. Furthermore, there does exist a large variety of learning contents (learning about one’s personality, one’s environment, one’s business capabilities). Many empirical studies confirm that this stock of knowledge gained through learning influences entrepreneurial re-emergence, particularly future venture performance.
Contributions. With these results, our study contributes to research on three dimensions: First, it takes stock of existing knowledge in the field, comprising studies on positive (“successes”) and negative (“failures”) forms of exit. Second, it provides a conceptual framework that improves our understanding of the learning process between entrepreneurial exit and re-emergence. Third, it reveals promising avenues for further research. We therefore are able to present findings with relevance for various interest groups, including but not limited to science, practitioners and the public.