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TIM Review 2019

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TIM Review 2019 ( tim-review-2019 )

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Elon Musk and SpaceX: A Case Study of Entrepreneuring as Emancipation Steven Muegge and Ewan Reid We are at a turning point in the history of space exploration and development. ... The established state-run industrial space sector is no longer the only game in town. Gary Martin, Director of Partnerships, NASA Ames Research Elon Musk and SpaceX are central to the profound change underway in the space industry, opening up the sector to entrepreneurship and innovation by non-traditional new entrants. We employ the emancipation perspective on entrepreneuring as a theoretical lens to describe, explain, and interpret the entrepreneuring activities of Musk to launch and grow SpaceX. Applying an event study approach that combines case methods and process theory methods on publicly-available sources, we develop six examples of seeking autonomy, seven examples of authoring, and four examples of making declarations—the three core elements of the emancipation perspective on entrepreneuring. Our work contributes to the theory and practice of innovation by adding to the corpus of descriptive case studies that examine entrepreneuring as an emancipatory process. Our results and our method will also also be of interest to space industry entrepreneurs, investors, analysts, managers, policy-makers, and officers at governmental space agencies. Introduction The article presents results from a case study of the entrepreneuring activities undertaken by Elon Musk between 2001 and 2015 to launch and grow Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX, https://www.spacex.com/), a private commercial spaceflight venture. We employ the emancipation perspective on entrepreneuring (Rindova et al. 2009) as a theoretical lens to identify, describe, and interpret examples of seeking autonomy, authoring, and making declarations—the three core elements of entrepreneuring emancipation. Our work contributes to the theory and practice of innovation by adding to the corpus of descriptive case studies that examine entrepreneuring as an emancipatory process. First proposed by Rindova et al. (2009) in the Academy of Management Review, Jennings et al. (2016, p. 81) describes the emancipation perspective as “groundbreaking,” with “paradigm-shifting potential” for understanding entrepreneurship and innovation. While theory-building requires careful observation and accurate description (Christensen & Raynor, 2003) undertaken by engaged scholars (Van de Ven, 2007), the features of both description and explanation are strengths of case study research designs (Yin, 2014; Eisenhardt et al. 2016). Thus, we argue that a corpus of well-designed and rigorously-executed case studies that employ the emancipation perspective to examine high- impact technology innovations, could accelerate theory- building about technology entrepreneurship and innovation. Nonetheless, there remains a dearth of published case research on these topics (Jennings et al. 2016; Reid, 2018). This paper is the second in a series of case study publications addressing this gap by examining the activities of NewSpace entrepreneurs (Zubrin, 2013; Pekkanen, 2016; Martin, 2017). Our previous paper examined Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic (https://www.virgingalactic.com/) (Muegge & Reid, 2018) and a forthcoming paper will examine Peter Diamandis and the XPRIZE Foundation (https://www.xprize.org/).

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